Happy Dez Bryant has new attitude

LONDON - The Wembley Stadium locker room was virtually empty when Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett stopped by Dez Bryant’s locker for a fist bump.

“The only way I can describe those touchdowns today,” said Garrett, “is that you ran with reckless abandon.”

Bryant, a free agent at the end of the season, showed an international audience Sunday afternoon why he wants to be paid like one of NFL’s top receivers, and why he’s loathe to accept the low-ball offers the Cowboys keep emailing his representatives.

Bryant’s scintillating, tackle-breaking touchdown receptions of 35 and 68 yards in the second quarter blew open a close game and let the Cowboys give Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray half of the fourth quarter off.

Dallas 31, Jacksonville 17.

Bryant, with a towel wrapped around his waist and a smile on his face as he headed to the showers, said he’s more at peace than he has ever been in his life.

It’s hard to understand just how important that is for the 26-year-old Bryant. If you don’t know, he grew up in an environment you wouldn’t wish on anyone, about 150 miles southeast of Dallas in Lufkin, Texas.

“I’m not letting anyone steal my joy,” Bryant said with smile. “You can write that. You can write all of that.

“They need to quit trying. It ain’t happening. I’m not the same person. There’s been some growth. I’m not supposed to stay the same. Right?”

So Bryant was perturbed, but not angry, about the pregame reports that suggested he and several teammates missed a curfew Friday night. Garrett said the Cowboys had a bed check only Saturday night.

And Bryant was aggravated but understood why he didn’t have a pass directed his way in the second half after catching six passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter. No player in franchise history has ever had a more productive quarter.

“I though I might have a really big game after the second quarter,” he said, “but we’re really super balanced -- I mean, really super balanced -- and I love it.”

And Bryant said he really could not care less about folks criticizing his decision to change agents from well-respected Eugene Parker to music mogul Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.

That’s because Bryant knows the truth.

If he prepares and plays the way he’s capable the rest of this season, then he will get everything he wants: a trip to the playoffs, a lucrative new contract and respect -- even from his haters.

When asked if the Cowboys helped him become a better man, Bryant scoffed.

“No, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I can’t control what they think. I can only control what I think,” he said. “I know what I’ve been doing. I know what I’m going to keep doing, and that’s be a great person and be great to my babies.

“They watch me every day. I have to set an example. Ten years from now, I want my kids to say good stuff about their daddy. I don’t talk about opinions that don’t matter anymore. That used to kill me, but I’ve got my babies watching.”

If Bryant’s kids watched Sunday’s game, then they saw why their daddy yearns to be paid like the best in the game.

Leading 10-7 midway through the second quarter, Bryant lined up in the left slot and caught a short crossing route.

What happened next was pure athleticism.

First, Bryant beat safety Johnathan Cyprien to the sideline and turned upfield. He eluded a defender when he cut inside at the 10, ran through a tackle at the 5 and split two more defenders at the goal line as he willed himself into the end zone, giving the Cowboys a 17-7 lead.

After forcing a Jacksonville punt with 39 seconds left in the half, the Cowboys took over at their own 32. Play-caller Scott Linehan decided to give Romo and Bryant an opportunity to make a play.

Actually, Jacksonville made the decision easy when Romo noticed the Jaguars were playing man-to-man and there was no safety to provide a double team.

Bryant easily beat Dwayne Gratz at the line of scrimmage, caught the ball in stride at about the 35 and dragged Cyprien the final 8 yards into the end zone.

“Dez really made a couple of great plays for us, plays that kind of changed the game,” Garrett said. “When you catch the ball 5 yards down the field and you make the run that he makes and then the play down the sideline, those are huge for us. Those are difference-making plays that allowed us to get ahead.”

That’s what playmakers do. It’s why Dallas drafted him and why he’s going to be one of the highest-paid receivers in the game next year, whether the Cowboys give him a long-term deal or put the franchise tag on him, which would pay him a one-year salary of about $12.5 million.

Either way, Bryant has promised not to let anyone steal his joy.