IRVING (AP) — Dez Bryant smiled through a “no comment,” yet the questions kept coming about a new contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
Before long, the star receiver said a deal wasn’t about money, which prompted someone to ask what it was about.
“It’s all about respect,” said Bryant, who was sitting at his locker when reporters showed up in a mostly empty room during the Cowboys’ bye week Wednesday. “I am a very loyal person, but just don’t test my loyalty.”
It’s probably too early to call that a warning shot for owner Jerry Jones. But Bryant did recently replace agent Eugene Parker with a combination of Jay Z’s Roc Nation management company and agent Tom Condon.
After saying before the season that he didn’t want negotiations to continue once the games began, Bryant changed course. He said he was willing for talks to resume as he wraps up a rookie deal worth $11.8 million over five years.
Meanwhile, Jones faced questions whether he was hesitant to give Bryant an expensive long-term contract because of issues away from the field that plagued his first two years in the league.
None of the above bothered Bryant in London against Jacksonville, when he set a franchise record for yards receiving in a quarter with 158 with two touchdowns in the second period of Dallas’ 31-17 win. The Cowboys’ next game is at the New York Giants on Nov. 23.
“People are going to say a lot of different things about you and if you get caught up in what’s going on outside this building and that takes away from what your preparation is, you’re probably not going to be your best,” coach Jason Garrett said. “And I think Dez understands that.”
Jones has said for months he wants a long-term deal with Bryant, and he says that answers the question about off-the-field concerns.
“He represents the star. We want him to be proud of that,” Jones said. “I’m real impressed with how he’s evolved over the last several years, or we wouldn’t be in serious contract negotiations with him.”
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys haven’t had discussions with Bryant’s new management team. Bryant, who has turned down several offers, has a base salary of $1.8 million this season.
Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, the league’s highest-paid receiver, has a $113 million contract with $49 million guaranteed. Bryant says the guaranteed money is an important factor for him.
“I didn’t make it a big deal my rookie year, my first year about getting to camp,” Bryant said. “I remember when people thought I was going to hold out and I didn’t. I just wanted to get in and show that I’m worthy of being in the NFL and I can be a dominant player.”
Bryant also made it clear early in his career that he appreciated Jerry Jones sticking with him through lawsuits over unpaid jewelry bills, a saggy pants episode with police at an upscale Dallas mall, and a domestic violence complaint involving his mother.
But what has long been viewed as a father-son relationship is evolving into a business partnership.
“Not saying that they’re not for me or anybody is for me, but I’m used to a family atmosphere,” said Bryant, closing in on his third straight 1,000-yard season with at least 10 touchdowns. “But we got money involved, so they got to make sure that they’re making the right investment. And I got to make sure that I’m worthy of everything.”
The Cowboys had severe salary cap issues last offseason and also have NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray in the final year of his contract. While they could use the franchise tag on a player to put off a decision on a longer contract, at some point Dallas will have to pay to keep both along with quarterback Tony Romo.
“At the end of the day, I want to win,” Bryant said. “But at the same time, I have a family and that’s what is important. I feel like, hey, I put the work in, I got to give myself some kind of credit.”
And the Cowboys want to give him that credit.
“As a player, as a man, he’s come a lot more than most will ever know,” Stephen Jones said. “We’ve offered him some really nice contracts. We also have to respect his views on where it is. My take on those things is that they ultimately find a way.”
Bryant believes that, too.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
[display-posts category=”news,sports” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”5″]