IRVING - Dez Bryant strutted through the Cowboys locker room on Thursday wearing black high-top shoes and delivering an update exclusively to CowboysHQ: ‘I’m done with the boot!’ he said jubilantly.
Bryant, the Dallas Cowboys All-Pro receiver, sustained a broken fifth metatarsal bone in his foot on Bryant suffered the injury on September 13 in a Week 1 win over the Giants. He had surgery on September 14 that included the insertion of a pin and a bone graft.
He immediately maintained in a visit with me that his return target would be four weeks from that time; that was seemingly intentionally optimistic, meant to drive him hard in his rehab. Meanwhile, the Cowboys always maintained that Bryant could be healed in six weeks — meaning a return on October 25 at the Giants, a game that comes after this Sunday’s home meeting with the Patriots and then Dallas’ bye. (Those four and six weeks ideas are reflected in the above video from that time; we did err on mentioning the nature of Randy Gregory's sprained ankle, by the way) ... and that Dez’ return would surely come in eight weeks or fewer.
Scattershooting, guessing and simply errant reports have put Bryant’s timeline from anywhere to “12 weeks’’ to “season-ending.’’ That was never the plan inside Valley Ranch, and now we see the plan accelerating in various ways.
“He’s getting in condition without putting too much stress on the foot, so he has not been out running routes or anything like that up to this point,” coach Jason Garrett said on Thursday. “There are different ways to run where you can kind of get yourself in as good a shape as possible leading up to it, so he’s been involved in that.”
Among those ways: The shedding of the boot to move to an anti-gravity treadmill, which features a harness that lifts the athlete’s weight off the machine but puts just the right amount of stress test and stress-for-improvement on the foot.
One Cowboys source close to the situation tells me Bryant may not be completely without further use for the protective boot. (There’s that Bryant enthusiastic optimism again, and maybe a pinch of semantics.) At the same time, Dr. David Chao (the long-time NFL team doctor not specifically associated with Bryant or the Cowboys here) notes, “If the fixation is firm, Dez could be OK to get rid of the boot now. Then one week to run, another to cut, and then another to play seems possible.’'
Chao once oversaw the rapid return of his patient, former Cowboys and Chargers defensive lineman Marcellus Wiley, who underwent a surgical repair similar to Bryant’s and played just three weeks later.
CowboysHQ.com medical expert Jeff Stotts agrees that a four-to-six week period in a boot would be considered “normal’’ and that usually an X-ray is performed to assure stability before the boot is no longer used.
Dez claims he is about there now, adding to his regimen with the use of an oxygen-deprivation mask designed to increase lung capacity.
As he said to me recently, “Things are going perfectly … I’m not doing anything foolish and I’m not going to do anything foolish. But I’m doing everything (the medical people) tell me to do, weight room, everything.’’
And he says he’s now doing it without the boot.