FRISCO, Texas -- Speaking for the first time since the release of Dez Bryant last Friday, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the move was made with careful consideration of a number of factors, from the wide receiver's production to his cost.
Bryant went three straight seasons without 1,000 yards and was set to count $16.5 million against the cap in 2018. After much internal deliberation, Garrett said the decision was made to part ways with the franchise's all-time leader in touchdown catches.
"Dez Bryant has been a great player for this franchise during his time here," Garrett said Tuesday at the Albertsons Companies All-Star Gala in which Pat and Emmitt Smith were presented a Lifetime Achievement Award for their charity work. "Certainly a playmaker, a difference-maker. A guy that we all love. Love him as a player, as a person and that will never change.
"It's a challenging situation. A lot of different factors go into these kinds of decisions and again the guidepost for all of this is: What's in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys? And that's why we made this decision. Wish Dez nothing but the best going forward. He's a special guy. I love him. I will always love him and the impact that he's made on this franchise has been significant."
In an interview with NFL Network after his release, Bryant referred to "Garrett guys" and players who wear the "C," as captains, as playing a part in the team's decision. Dak Prescott, Jason Witten and Sean Lee were three of the Cowboys' six captains in 2017.
"For me, I mean being a quarterback, being a captain, I take the blame," Prescott said. "I take all the blame. When you lose, things like this happen. So Dez knows how I feel. We've shared messages and he knows my stance on everything so I wish him well."
Bryant and Witten became close over the years, especially since Bryant moved into the same neighborhood as the Pro Bowl tight end. Witten said last Friday "was an emotional day for all of us," but defended the captains.
"I don't know what all that's about," Witten said. "I know when you go through these processes there's a lot of things that probably go into it. I know I enjoyed my time with Dez and I think that I appreciated everything that we were able to do. Certainly invested a lot in him and he has helped me become a better player, too. So I appreciate that time together. Look, being a captain is a huge honor for me and the other guys and I know what those guys' character is all about. There's really nothing there."
Lee said the Cowboys' locker room is as close as any he has been a part of since coming in with Bryant in 2010.
"All I know is that I loved playing with him, and like anything any type of breakup can be tough," Lee said. "But I know he's going to be dominant and play the way he can. We can't get into that (talk). We've got to move forward."
Bryant has let it be known that he would like to play against the Cowboys once -- if not twice -- in 2018.
"Oh, it would be torture to play against a guy like that, who plays hard like he does, who makes all those plays," Lee said. "As a linebacker I always felt like it was tackling a running back (with) how hard he ran, how tough he was. So that would be extremely tough for us."