Dez Bryant retains a school-boy-level enthusiasm for football and that same level of optimism for most anything he does. It's how he can tell CowboysHQ.com two weeks ago that his post-surgery foot has him "feeling great'' -- as he's trotting around in the Valley Ranch backyard catching and throwing passes while helping to "coach'' at the rookie minicamp -- even as Dallas plans for his return to the field to be a cautious one.
Cowboys officials suggest to us that Bryant will not be a full participant on Tuesday when the Cowboys launch into their first series work of the spring at OTAs. Everything they tell us is that the star wideout's recovery from that second bone-graft surgery in January is positive and even ahead of schedule.
But while they want the conditioning work to be top-notch, and while they need his energy via his sheer presence, they don't need to take any risks.
Coach Jason Garrett on the progress:
He's moving around well. We're not going to rush him. We'll take Dez's situation day-by-day, just like we would any of the other (rehabbing) guys, and just see how they progress over the course of the spring."
Teammate Jason Witten on the vibe:
"He brings great energy. I think it’s great, not only for him, but for all of us to have him there. He loves football. It’s been a good off season for him. You talk about getting motivated and excited. He just leaps out when you see him the way that he approaches every day this off-season. He looks good, and I know he’s very excited to get back at it. ... He’s always talking about routes and what we can do better, things that he wants to focus on. It’s all about getting better and the energy that he brings. Those are good conversations you want to have, especially when he wasn’t around last year He’s off to a really good start and he’s a competitor. He’s working hard to get himself, not only to be back, but to do really good and try to be the best.”
Teammate Terrance Williams on the WR room:
Dez has been working his butt off the whole time and me, him and Beas and us getting the chemistry back together. It’s going to help us out tremendously."
COO Stephen Jones on that conditioning:
"I think he's really focused on being around and doing the work and that's important. His injury requires the rehab and the TLC that (trainers) give him. He's done an outstanding job and been committed to being around and I think that's only getting better. That's what we need of him, is to get well and do his rehab and then get in great shape.
"I think one of the tough things about last year for Dez, he plays with such energy, that with the contract dispute, if you will, he wasn't around, which is business, and consequently he probably wasn't in his best shape going into the season and then you start to add the injuries when players aren't in shape and they continued on through training camp and then on into the season and we ended up not having him much last year.''
There is a trick there that needs to be handled just right: Dez needs to do everything possible to be in "football shape'' without having actually played much football after a 12-month period that included a contract dispute, a hamstring ailment at training camp and then a broken foot that limited him to nine games and career-low numbers. (Retro back to the above video and realize how long Cowboys Nation has been on "Dez Watch.'')
Maybe all of that comes together at some point this spring, and certainly it all comes together by the time we get to Oxnard. But it won't happen Tuesday, as "school-boy-level enthusiasm'' will be meshed with "risk-adverse conservatism.''
"If he can get his rehab done and get himself in top condition,'' Jones said, "then I think we'll see the same Dez that we saw two years ago."