ARLINGTON (AP) – Dez Bryant couldn’t stop smiling at the luxury watches that are more expensive than some cars, far removed from his days as a troubled rookie facing a lawsuit over unpaid jewelry bills.
The Dallas Cowboys were giving their star receiver the fancy timepiece as a reward for being among just four players chosen to attend a news conference announcing a partnership with the Swiss manufacturer Hublot.
Bryant beamed for the cameras during Monday night’s ritzy event at the $1.2 billion home of the Cowboys, and then offered one more illustration of his transformation.
While reiterating that he wants to be paid like a big-time receiver, he wants negotiations to stop before the Sept. 7 opener against San Francisco with or without deal.
Why? Because a player who was the king of distractions four years ago doesn’t want to be “distracted” once the regular season starts.
“I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” Bryant said. “Put it behind me. I love this game. Either way, I feel like I can’t be distracted once I’m on the football field.”
The fifth-year receiver is entering the final year of his rookie contract after Tyron Smith, drafted a year later and one of the teammates joining him for the watch presentation, recently got an eight-year extension that pushed the value of his deal to more than $100 million.
Bryant has a base salary of $1.8 million in 2014, and the average of the highest-paid receivers is around $12 million per year. The 25-year-old believes he belongs in that company.
“I believe a player should get paid what he deserves,” said Bryant, who is tied for the league lead with 25 touchdowns over the past two seasons. “If I’m top five, I’m top five. If I’m top three, I’m top three. If I’m top two, I’m top two.”
Owner Jerry Jones, not one to offer many details on negotiations, didn’t reject Bryant’s suggestion that there was a “big chance” a deal could be done by the end of next week. Bryant’s agent, Eugene Parker, didn’t return a call seeking comment.
“He’s got a good sense of it,” Jones said at Monday’s event, which was also attended by tight end Jason Witten and running back DeMarco Murray. “He obviously feels in the right circumstances he wants to get something done. We do, too.”
Bryant’s tumultuous first two years with the Cowboys included jewelry lawsuits that were settled, a baggy pants incident at an upscale Dallas mall and a domestic disturbance charge over an incident with his mother. He’s also created stirs with a variety of sideline antics.
While the sideline shows are more recent, the brushes with the law are now at least two years old. And he says a big contract won’t change him.
“I’m here to take care of my family,” says Bryant, who has two young sons. “That’s all I ever wanted to do, is take care of my family. I know how to survive with nothing.”
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