Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To carry pads, or not to carry pads?

Is this the beginning of the end for Dez Bryant?

Bryant fell to 24th overall in this year's NFL Draft due to character concerns, stemming mainly for his lying to NCAA investigators about his relationship with Deion Sanders and the resulting year-long suspension. I was against the suspension at the time and thought it was absurd to steal away a superstar's senior season over something so petty.

I am also a huge fan of Bryant's talents; he has the potential to be the best offensive player taken in this draft. Dallas got a definite steal in the latter third of the 2009 first round.

But then reports come out saying Bryant refused to carry veteran receiver Roy Williams' pads after practice. The obvious media firestorm ensued and now the previous questions about Bryant, which had died down thanks to him exhibiting professional behavior and signing before any other first-round pick, are back on the hot stove.

If I was in Bryant's shoes, I would have taken Williams' pads to the locker room. Then, I would've taken the next month to show off my serious talents in training camp and throughout the preseason, making it impossible for Dallas not to make me their number-two receiver ahead of the disappointing Williams. Then, I would make Williams carry my pads to the locker room on the last practice before the season opener just to say, "Hey, this is my spot and I'm going to run with it. Enjoy working against nickel corners."

However, I'm not going to bash Bryant for not carrying Williams' pads. I absolutely love what he said afterwards, that he was brought in to help the Cowboys win a championship and not to carry somebody's pads. He's absolutely right about that and the fact that this has turned into an issue is just plain stupid.

Keyshawn Johnson said the same thing after refusing to sing the USC fight song when he was a rookie with the Jets. All he did was catch 63 balls for 844 yards and 8 touchdowns as a rookie. Suffice to say, he gained the respect of the veterans with his play on the field, not by carrying pads, and I think Bryant will do much of the same. That's the way it should be.

But Bryant has to understand the baggage he came into the league with, whether it was just or unjust. He has to realize that pulling a stunt like this is going to make people question whether the Cowboys were smart to take a "risk" on him late in round one. That is the ONLY reason he should have carried Williams' pads.

Not because Williams is a veteran with the inside track to the second receiver position (for now). Not because rookies are supposed to go through some sort of hazing. None of that matters. But what does matter (unfortunately and possibly unfairly) is the public's perception of a player who already has question marks surrounding his character.

Did Bryant know refusing to carry Williams' pads was going to lead to lots of negative media attention? Even if he didn't he should have, and understanding the situations he has put himself in due to "questionable" behavior in the past is a key part of the maturation process, another trait Bryant has been knocked for lacking.

This isn't a big deal at all to me and I think Bryant will prove why once he settles in and makes an impact on the field. He's already better than Williams and even if he starts the season in the slot, I don't think it will take more than a few dropped passes by Williams to vault Bryant into the starting lineup.

But for now, Dez, just carry the pads. Prove yourself on the field before you start acting like you're god's gift to the Cowboys. I believe you will, but there are no guarantees in the NFL. And if you think there are, you might prove myself and all of your other supporters dead wrong when we peg you as the next Randy Moss. Don't make me look stupid, Dez. Just carry the damn pads.

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