Better to Receive

The unquestioned owner of the spotlight Saturday was rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant, and with good reason.

The rookie for whom the Cowboys traded up in the first round dazzled through mini-camps and OTAs, was the first player chosen in the first round of the NFL draft to sign a contract and has been the model student since his arrival in Dallas, listening to coaches, teammates and former players.

The addition of Bryant gives the Cowboys one of the most potent groups of receivers in the NFL. Miles Austin emerged last year as the most dangerous wideout on the team, leading a unit that also includes Bryant, Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Sam Hurd, Kevin Ogletree and a handful of rookie hopefuls.

Crayton said the talent at the position makes each of the receivers better, because it pushes them to work harder in practice.

"Every day, every play you are on the field, you'd better bring your game with you," Crayton said. "That is what makes the NFL — if you're not a competitor, you might as well just stay in the locker room."

Austin is the clear-cut headliner of the group, bursting out with 81 receptions last year for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns, ending his season with his first Pro Bowl berth and a place in the conversation about the league's top receivers.

But he insisted Sunday that his breakout season will not alter his approach to the game.

"Statistically, who knows what is going to happen," Austin said. "But I know my efforts are going to be the same or higher, and that is what I plan on doing — working hard every day.

"I have the same confidence. I was getting more opportunities last year, and hopefully I will get a lot of opportunities this year. There is nothing you can do, really. You just have to go hard, regardless."

There has been some speculation that if Bryant emerges as a star — some have tagged him as one of the preseason favorites for Rookie of the Year honors — that he and Crayton could make Williams expendable, but that's highly unlikely. Williams's contract calls for him to earn nearly $13 million this season in salary and bonus money, so he's going nowhere. His contract makes him virtually impossible to trade, and the chance of the team cutting him and absorbing a monstrous cap hit is virtually nil.

Crayton, of course, has been the subject of numerous headlines this offseason. After seeing the money invested in Austin and Williams and the arrival of Bryant, many speculated that Crayton would be cut or traded. Thus far, no such movement has occurred.

"That's nothing I can control," he said. "All I can do is take care of what is on the green field."

The biggest beneficiary of the Cowboys' wealth of able receivers is quarterback Tony Romo, whose skill is magnified when it is paired with receivers with whom he has developed a level of chemistry and timing.

"It is our fifth year together, so it's good any time you are with a quarterback that long and have a relationship with him on and off the field," Austin said. "So it's great to have him as my quarterback."

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