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Dez Playing It Cool After Slow Start To Season

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FRISCO (AP) — Dez Bryant smiled as he looked down at his phone and listened to reporters offer ideas for how the Dallas Cowboys could get their top receiver the ball more often.

Without looking up, the 2014 All-Pro pointed outside the locker room, playfully suggesting that the issue should be taken up with coaches whose offices are now a floor above the players at the team’s new practice facility.

A few years ago, Bryant might not have been in such a good mood after catching just one pass in a season-opening loss.

Heading into a Week 2 visit to Washington on Sunday, he’s trying to act more as if he’s the dean of Dallas receivers, which he is, and less like the fiery young receiver who sometimes lost control on the sideline.

“It’s just understanding, understanding what they’re trying to do,” said Bryant, whose catch went for 8 yards in a 20-19 loss to the New York Giants.

“Whatever the coaches give me, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to get too involved, get my emotions too high, or too low. I’m just going to stay prepared and ready at any moment.”

Part of the understanding is that Bryant is working with a rookie quarterback in Dak Prescott after 13-year veteran and 10-year starter Tony Romo broke a bone in his back in a preseason game.

And it wasn’t as if Prescott ignored his top threat in his first regular-season game. Bryant had a 24-yard touchdown overturned on review, and another long pass into the end zone was broken up.

The numbers stick out, though. Bryant was targeted five times compared to 26 combined for tight end Jason Witten and slot receiver Cole Beasley.

Witten had nine catches and Beasley eight. It’s also somewhat startling to note that Bryant’s looks were limited despite being on the field for 75 snaps.

“That’s our guy, he needs catches,” Prescott said.

“He had some balls thrown at him, he wants to bring down and he’d say it himself he wants to bring that touchdown, make that play. I think if he has that, regardless of two catches or not, he has a touchdown and I don’t know if we’re still talking about this.”

Prescott needed 25 completions (on 45 attempts) to get 227 yards, and coach Jason Garrett said he missed a few chances to get the ball down the field.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan also pointed out that on the deep throw to Bryant that was broken up in the end zone, Witten was open across the middle.

“You’ve got to be careful of that,” Linehan said. “Certain receivers and certain players are open when they’re not wide open, right? We’re fairly aware of Dez’s ability to catch and jump and do all those things. So we’ll continue to work on that.”

Linehan gave Prescott high marks for his debut, and Bryant has gone out of his way to praise the 23-year-old since before Romo’s latest back injury. So it’s safe to say Bryant didn’t see Prescott as the problem in Week 1.

“I don’t like using rookie as an excuse because it’s not,” Bryant said. “But at the same time it was his first NFL game. I think he did a hell of a job and he’s going to continue getting better. We’re just going to keep pushing and stay behind him and be ready when he needs us.”

It won’t get easier this week with Washington cornerback Josh Norman likely lined up against Bryant most if not all game. The previous time these two saw each other, Bryant was held to two catches for 26 yards in Carolina’s 33-14 rout of the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Bryant was still plagued by a foot he broke in the opener last year, and he dealt with ankle issues most of the season as well.

Now he’s healthy.

“I’m not going to get into that,” Bryant said. “I feel good. We’re going to have fun.”

NOTES: CB Orlando Scandrick was held out of practice with a hamstring injury Thursday. He did practice Wednesday. Scandrick, who missed the 2015 season with a knee injury, was sidelined briefly in the opener with a hamstring problem.

(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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