IRVING, Texas - For Terrance Williams, Dez Bryant's foot injury isn’t about giving the Dallas Cowboys' third-year receiver a platform to show why he should get a lucrative long-term deal when the time is right.
And it’s not about persuading the coaches he should get a few more passes directed his way, or that the third-year receiver has the ability to be a No. 1 receiver.
It’s really about Williams proving something to himself: He doesn’t need Bryant on the field to thrive.
“Dez is my guy,” Williams said after the Cowboys' 27-26 win Sunday against the New York Giants. “He does a lot for me. He gets my mind right. It’s kind of hard to talk about his injury because I get emotional. He keeps me normal.
“I tend to get a little nervous before games, and I tend not to speak much, but whenever he comes into the locker room, I have no choice but to talk and just be me."
Williams has never played a game without Bryant on the field to encourage and guide him.
“He makes football a whole lot of fun. When you see somebody as more than a teammate -- when you see them as a best friend or brother -- you care for them,” Williams said. “This is hard for me, but Dez wouldn’t want me feeling sorry for myself. He’d want me to keep making plays.”
Bryant, who’s expected to miss 4-6 weeks after breaking the fifth metatarsal on his right foot, had surgery to repair the injury on Monday, according to sources.
Williams, a sensitive soul, is the kind of serious-minded player Jason Garrett loves having on his team. For what it’s worth, Williams says he knows no other way.
“I’m really loyal to people, who give me a chance,” Williams said. “Coach [Art] Briles gave me a chance in college and I’ve been loyal to him and everything he said -- and it has been the same way here.
“They took a chance on me, and like I tell them, “I’m here until the end.'"
You can make the argument pretty easily that Williams is one of the best receivers taken in the 2013 draft.
Of the 28 receivers selected, he ranks fourth in yards (1,417) and fifth in receptions (86), but leads all 2013 receivers with 13 touchdown receptions. Not bad for a third-round pick, who was the seventh receiver taken that year.
While Bryant's out, Williams’ role must increase.
Tight end Jason Witten and slot receiver Cole Beasley will allow the Cowboys to control time of possession with their passing game by converting on third down. But for the Cowboys’ offense to be efficient, Williams must provide big plays, which is his specialty.
If not, teams will crowd the line of scrimmage with the extra safety they no longer have to use to double team Bryant and dare the Cowboys to beat them long with Williams.
Devin Street and rookie Lucky Whitehead are the only other outside receivers on the roster, and they’re not ready to be consistent factors in the offense. Neither is anyone the Cowboys pick up off the street, whether it’s someone they had in training camp or a veteran free agent.
Williams caught only one of four passes directed his way in the first half against the Giants, but when the Cowboys needed him to make plays at winning time he did.
On the 76-yard scoring drive that pulled Dallas within 23-20, Williams caught two passes for 37 yards. On the game-winning, 72-yard scoring drive, he caught an 8-yard pass to the Giants 12, setting up Witten’s touchdown catch.
He finished with five catches for 60 yards.
“I thought he did a really good job in the game where he had an opportunity on a slant and another slant and wasn’t able to finish those plays,” Garrett said. “Young players sometimes get down on themselves, while veterans and the better players somehow put those behind them and go one to the next one.
“He’s improved as a route runner and running after the catch. He’s just a good football player."
And that’s not going to change whether Bryant is on the field or not.