ARLINGTON, Texas – Jerry Jones has repeatedly expressed his concerns about Dez Bryant’s injury risk on punt returns.
Those concerns are amplified by Miles Austin’s strained right hamstring, although the Cowboys won’t know the severity of that injury until getting MRI results today.
Bryant hasn’t made much of a case that the reward is worth the risk in limited opportunities on punt returns this season. He has averaged only 6.8 yards on four returns and has made two major mental errors – failing to field a punt against the Rams that bounced about 15 yards inside the Dallas 10 and fielding a punt at the 6 and losing yardage against the Seahawks.
“He’s had a couple of misjudgments in fielding the ball this year and that’s inexperience,” Jones said. “He’s of course done that in college and does have a good feel for where the ball is on the field. So I don’t know that that’s something that concerns me.
“I’m still concerned when we had him back there about his injury, especially that now that Miles may be or may not be out a couple of games.”
Bryant was spectacular as a punt returner during his rookie season, averaging 14.3 yards and scoring on two of 15 attempts. That dynamic ability is the reason coach Jason Garrett has opted to use Bryant, when healthy, as the Cowboys’ primary punt returner.
Cornerback Terence Newman also takes practice reps as a punt returner, but it makes little sense to use an injury-prone veteran starter in that role, especially with Mike Jenkins (hamstring) out at least another two games.
If the Cowboys opt to play it safe with Bryant, reserve receiver Kevin Ogletree probably becomes the primary punt returner. He’s inexperienced in that role, averaging 17.5 yards on two returns this season.