Dez Bryant shifts gears on route running

OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Dez Bryant did his most strenuous route-running Thursday since suffering a high right ankle sprain, but the session slowed down based on the advice of the team's athletic training staff.

Bryant ran six routes at three-quarters speed before practice, catching passes from third-team quarterback Stephen McGee under the supervision of receivers coach Ray Sherman.

Associate athletic trainer Britt Brown, who is in charge of Bryant's rehabilitation program, walked across the field to have a brief conversation with Bryant and Sherman. Bryant jogged through a handful of routes after that and didn't catch any more balls from McGee.

Sherman said Brown reminded him that Bryant would run full speed in rehab drills during practice.

"We just backed off a little bit," Sherman said.

Bryant, who injured his ankle July 30, has jogged through routes several times this week. He had not run any at three-quarters speed until Thursday, although he has been running and working on resistance cords with Brown all week.

Sherman said there's a possibility that Bryant could return to practice next week. However, the Cowboys are leaning toward not playing him in the Sept. 2 preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins.

Teaching was the primary purpose of the route-running session, according to Sherman. He called out plays for Bryant, who has displayed a good grasp of the offense in similar sessions with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Sherman this week. Sherman worked with Bryant on technique and adjustments based on the way a cornerback plays him.

"He's doing really well," Sherman said. "I'm very pleased with what he's doing now. Very pleased.

"He is eager. He wants to get back on the field. We've just got to make sure we're smart, because once we get him out there, he's going to be there. We don't want to rush him out there before he's ready, but he's getting close."

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.