Nomad Cowboy

IRVING, Tex. - Two newcomers on the Dallas roster, wide receivers Dez Bryant and Titus Ryan, have lockers a couple of feet from each other in the locker room at Valley Ranch.

But other than the location of their personal belongings and the positions they play, their stories couldn't me much more different.

Bryant burst onto the national scene a couple of years ago as a star wideout at Oklahoma State. He then gained further notoriety last season when he was suspended, yet despite barely playing in 2009, the Cowboys traded up in the first round to select him (and there were plenty of rumors that other teams were jockeying to do the same).

The 6-foot, 190-pound Ryan starred at something called Concordia College in Selma, Ala. He went undrafted in 2007, and was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs. Over the 2007 and 2008 seasons, he had brief dalliances with the Chiefs, the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers. When no NFL team picked him up last year, he signed with the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders, who subsequently traded him to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"I've been on the move a lot over the last couple of years," Ryan said. "I want to make this team, and I want to stick for a while."

The former junior college track star will rely on his speed as he tries to crack the Cowboys' crowded crew of wide receivers. All of the Dallas wideouts know there is fierce competition for a limited number of spots. Bryant, Miles Austin and Roy Williams are locks to make the team, if only because of their contracts. Kevin Ogletree and Patrick Crayton, if he is still around, have to be viewed as having a leg up on the competition. So if the team only carries five receivers, there's no place for Ryan and the other youngsters hoping to earn a spot.

Ryan knows the odds appear long, and that his best chance to make the team is if Crayton is traded or the team carries six receivers … or both. If either of those happens, he knows he has a shot.

"There are a bunch of us fighting for that last spot or two," Ryan said. "I feel like I have a little advantage, because I've been in the league. I know what it takes to perform, to get through a season. The season is a long time — it's a grind."

Ryan's greatest asset is his speed. He's up there with Austin in the battle for the fastest Dallas receiver, and believes that if there's a tie for the last spot, the advantage will — or at least should — go to the player with the better speed.

"Running is something we all do," he said. "Running fast is something you're born with."

Ryan also said he feels more confident because while rookies joined the team in April, he was signed in February. He has an extra few months in Dallas, working out with the team's strength and conditioning staff and absorbing the offensive scheme and the playbook.

"I feel pretty comfortable (with the offense)," Ryan said. "I've had a few months' head start on the other new guys. I'm not going to say it's second nature yet, but it's getting there.

"Sometimes when you switch teams, you run a play and think about it in the language your last team used. I'm not — I'm thinking plays through in our terminology."

Ryan said he is working on refining some techniques — specifically route-running and keeping his pads low — but generally feels confident about his chances.

"All I can do is work hard and practice hard and perform," he said. "Hopefully (the coaches) will see what I can do, and everything will pan out."

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