IRVING, Texas -- With all the stories about Dez Bryant being a character risk, and then with him picking the same agent whom buddy Michael Crabtree had during a holdout that lasted nearly until Halloween last season, some Dallas Cowboys fans worried whether the rookie wide receiver would ever show up.
Well, guess what: Bryant signed Thursday, becoming the first first-round draft pick in the entire NFL to strike a deal. The contract is for $11.8 million over five years, with at least $8.3 million guaranteed.
The key is that the deal is done in time for Bryant to be in San Antonio for the start of training camp Friday and, of course, the first practice Saturday. By the end of training camp, he might even be pushing Roy Williams for the starting job opposite Miles Austin.
"This was very important to me to be able to get this done in time for the first practice," Bryant said in a statement released by the team. "I want to help this team. I want to compete. I can't wait to start playing football again."
Bryant played just three games for Oklahoma State last season, then was dogged by all sorts of questions about his integrity, starting with an NCAA suspension for lying to investigators about a meeting with former Cowboys star Deion Sanders.
There was talk of Bryant skipping meetings and classes and being late to games. There were concerns about his mother's private life, enough that Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland asked if she ever was a prostitute. After Bryant skipped the NFL Scouting Combine and held his own pro day, there were whispers that he forgot to bring the right cleats.
But the Cowboys did their homework and wanted Bryant so badly that when they saw him slipping in the draft, they moved up to No. 24 and nabbed him. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also laid the foundation for Thursday's announcement before ever making the pick.
Speaking with agent Eugene Parker while the Cowboys were on the clock, Jones said: "We want a commitment here that we're going to work to get this done. We don't want a repeat of what happened last year."
That conversation was relayed by Stephen Jones, the team's vice president, while he repeatedly praised Parker and Bryant for sealing the deal on the eve of training camp.
"It's always been a good relationship with (Parker)," Jones said Thursday, noting that the agent represented two other recent first-rounders, but leaving out the fact both were a few days late to camp. "It's a two-way street. He's benefited, we've benefited. Nobody is trying to get the upper hand. You just want things to be good. He wants things to be good for Dez, and so do we."
Parker agreed that his long, solid relationship with the Joneses helped this deal come together.
"The trust factor," he said. "That enabled us to cut through some of the typical posturing and positioning and get right to the issues."
Among those issues was the lack of a collective bargaining agreement starting in 2011. That uncertainty is among the reasons that none of the other first-rounders have signed.
"That's a big issue," Parker said. "Both sides had to be committed to compromise and be willing to see the other person's challenges and concerns and work through them."
Irvin was Troy Aikman's favorite target, and Pearson was Roger Staubach's favorite target. With this deal done, it won't be long before Tony Romo starts his relationship with Bryant, perhaps adding them to that list.
"It was really important that we get him working and in the groove with Tony and our offense, and I think he understood that," Stephen Jones said.
Romo liked what he saw from Bryant over the summer -- and from what the kid did in college.
In 27 games at Oklahoma State, Bryant had 147 catches for 2,425 yards (16.5 yards per catch) and 29 touchdowns. He also returned 22 punts for a 19.6-yard average and three TDs.
Bryant already is being counted on to return punts for the Cowboys.
On Friday, the Cowboys' official Web site reported that the team had signed four draft picks: linebacker Sean Lee, a second-round pick (55th overall) out of Penn State; safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, a fourth-round pick (126th overall) out of Indiana University of Pennsylvania; cornerback Jamar Wall, a sixth-round choice (196th overall) from Texas Tech; and nose tackle Josh Brent, a supplemental draft seventh-round pick from Illinois. All four players signed four-year contracts.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press