Teaching Opportunity

Through the first week of the Dallas Cowboys' training camp in San Antonio, rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant was the biggest topic of discussion.

First it was his ridiculous one-handed catches, then his refusal to carry veteran Roy Williams's shoulder pads from the field. Finally, it was the news that he had suffered a high ankle sprain and would be lost for four to six weeks.

To quarterback Tony Romo, Bryant's injury means one less target to whom he can throw. To fans, means waiting a month to see the circus catches.

But for wide receivers coach Ray Sherman, his youngest pupil's injury doesn't mean any kind of a respite from his job. Instead, it means he has to make sure the other receivers can carry the load, and that Bryant continues learning while his ankle heals.

"You need to continue to get better, go to meetings look at tape," Sherman said when asked how Bryant will spend his time while recovering, "and get your rehab until you are able to come back."

Sherman said it is important that Bryant be brought back slowly, so as to not risk reinjuring the ankle by pushing his rehab too hard.

"It's up to the training staff to make sure they work with him, which they will," Sherman said. "Then, just like I said, we have to just wait and see what happens when he gets back, not rush it and make sure when he is on the field that he is healthy."

In just one week of training camp, as well as mini-camps and OTAs, Bryant had climbed into the top three — some would say top two — places on the pecking order of Dallas receivers. With Bryant's injury, Sherman said, everyone else slides up a notch behind starters Miles Austin and Roy Williams.

"Everybody is going to get more reps when you take a guy out of the line-up," he said. "You're down one, so that means more reps for everybody else."

Juggling the number of passes thrown to each receiver isn't hard, Sherman said. The key, he said, is making sure the ball gets spread around to everyone, so each player has a chance to show the coaches and his teammates what he can do.

"No it's not hard to manage," he said. "You just have to make sure guys get equal amounts of reps, especially when you're going two-a-days. You have to make sure the guys are getting equal amounts of reps."

Sherman was asked how Bryant's injury affects the status of veteran receiver Patrick Crayton, who missed much of the team's offseason workout program after asking for a trade.

Sherman shied away from specifying Crayton's role, other than to say, "He's very valuable, and this situation is why."

Sherman said the Bryant injury should serve as a strong reminder to all of his players that even reserves can be just one play away from getting on the field. Veterans like Austin and Williams have roster spots locked up, but for the free agents trying to grab one of the final roster spots, an injury in training camp to a teammate can prove to be a valuable opportunity.

"You never know in the season," Sherman said. "That is why when you are a backup, you have to continue to focus and work, because you never know when your number is going to be called. So that is why you have to come out each and every day ready to work."

As for Bryant, Sherman said it is imperative that the team's top draft pick doesn't get complacent while waiting for his ankle to recover.

"Classroom work, meeting time and watching film," Sherman said when asked what Bryant will do while unable to practice. "He will have to get mental reps in since he can't get the physical in."

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