IRVING, Texas -- The contested, leaping, juggling catch on the sideline didn’t count, but it served as yet another example of Dez Bryant's rare physical gifts.
It also served as an example of the 25-year-old Pro Bowl receiver’s room for growth.
Bryant was spectacular in his two series, catching three passes for 59 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown on a jump ball that he made look easy. But head coach Jason Garrett and receivers coach Derek Dooley gave Bryant an earful about the one opportunity he didn’t seize, a play negated by a holding penalty anyway.
They pointed out to Bryant -- and the rest of the receivers in the room -- that he had to try to make a miraculous catch because he ran a bad route. They showed the film of Bryant releasing too wide on the fade route and allowing the cornerback to push him near the sideline, giving quarterback Tony Romo a tiny window in which to fit the ball.
Bryant soaked up the criticism, truly appreciating the coaches' commitment to pushing him to reach his immense potential.
"If it’s not right, tell me it’s not right because I want to do my best to fix it," Bryant said. "I’ve always been that way. I want to know. I want to know if I’m doing it right or if I’m not. They're doing a great job of telling the guys, just being complete, straight-out honest."
Bryant believes he’s one of the five best receivers in the game and has statistics to back up his claim. He ranks tied for first in touchdown catches (25) and sixth in receiving yards (2,615) over the past two seasons.
But it isn’t hard for Bryant to put his ego in check when he arrives at Valley Ranch each morning. He is determined to find out how much better he can be -- and understands that requires the ability to receive constructive criticism and consistently apply it to his craft.
Bryant craves the kind of hard coaching he needs to help him maximize his unique talent.
"You should never be satisfied. Nobody," Bryant said. "Never get comfortable. That’s when you start falling downhill. Like I said, you’ve got to always have room to grow. I have a lot. I feel like I have a lot of room to grow."
The coaches have identified the finer details of route running as a facet of the game that Bryant can improve significantly. He thinks he’s progressed from average to good as a route runner.
He's willing to work to be great, inviting Dooley’s harsh critiques of his releases, breaks and every other imaginable route-running intricacy.
"He wants to be great," Garrett said. "He’s always been someone who accepts coaching, and he understands it. The film is a great tool. It doesn’t lie, and there’s rarely an instance when you as a coach put something up on the screen and say, 'What do you think? You coach yourself.' These guys know when it’s right and when it’s wrong. It’s our job to point it out to them and highlight the stuff that’s good, and make sure we recognize the stuff that’s not quite so good, either, and how we can make it better.”
"He’s a pro. He wants to be great. He listens to coaching, and he really gets better each and every day."