Bryant's emotion spills over, but coaches aren't concerned

IRVING, Texas -- Rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant wants everyone to know that the hollering and pointing he did on the sideline during the Dallas Cowboys' Thanksgiving game had nothing to do with him being shut out for the first time in his NFL career.

The fourth-quarter tirade caught by television cameras, he insists, was because of miscommunication on a single play.

"That's all it was," he said.

He's not sorry about it, either. To Bryant, it's just another example of the passion he brings to every game.

"I'm emotional about everything," he said. "I wasn't doing anything wrong. It was the game bringing that out of me."

Bryant's antics in a game that Dallas lost and featured all zeros on his stat sheet worried many Cowboys fans. They instantly thought of Terrell Owens and his divisive, emotional outbursts during his tenure here.

Interim coach Jason Garrett wasn't among the worriers. To him, seeing passion bubbling over from No. 88 reminded him of his own playing days in Dallas and his teammate who wore that number, Michael Irvin.

"To me, he was excited, was passionate, was ready to go," said Garrett, who also is the offensive coordinator. "I don't see that as a negative. And obviously with any player, you want to make sure they're focused on the task at hand, but he's such an enthusiastic, passionate guy. In no way was it to me -- and I don't think to the offensive guys or anybody on the team -- a distraction. 'Hey Dez, let's just go to the next play.' And I think he understood that, and he went about his job."

The New Orleans Saints seemed determined not to let Bryant beat them, devoting two defenders to him on most plays. The Cowboys tried getting him the ball anyway, and it didn't work out so well. A screen to Bryant was intercepted, then he fumbled on an end around, losing six yards. Dallas already was down 17-0 by then.

The Cowboys came back in part because they were able to take advantage of the defense's focus on Bryant. Tight end Jason Witten and running back Felix Jones became bigger part of the passing game, and Dallas eventually went ahead midway through the fourth quarter.

Then the Cowboys fell behind again. Needing a big play, quarterback Jon Kitna threw to Bryant -- he leads the team in touchdown catches -- on three consecutive snaps.

Incomplete, incomplete, incomplete.

At least once, Kitna and Bryant were clearly thinking different things. The pass went outside, and Bryant was leaning inside. Kitna has repeatedly insisted all mistakes were his; then again, as a 14-year veteran, he knows better than to even hint that the rookie might have been at fault.

Bryant's tirade came earlier in the quarter, after another misfire.

The way Bryant described it, he wasn't yelling at receivers coach Ray Sherman, just venting to him. Bryant also got things off his chest while talking to running back Tashard Choice, his sideline confidant.

"Me not touching the ball and us winning or losing, especially if I'm double-covered, there's no need to fuss, no need to fight about it or get frustrated about it," Bryant said. "It's all a part of the game. You just got to try to play through it the best way you can. I feel like that's what I've done. That's all I can do."

Bryant said friends have warned to be careful about his emotions. He also has spoken to Irvin. His advice: "Stay hungry."

Even with his oh-fer in a loss to the Saints, Bryant remains among the leading rookies in all receiving statistics. He's tied for first in TD catches (six), alone in second in receiving yards (547) and tied for third in catches (44).

In other words, Bryant has lived up to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' expectations when he traded up to draft him and anointed him as a future star by giving him No. 88, hallowed in franchise history because of Irvin and Drew Pearson.

But Bryant's introduction to the NFL has been rough. There has been controversy after Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland asked about his mom's lifestyle and headlines made when Bryant refused to carry a veteran's shoulder pads (not realizing it was just a rookie ritual) and when payback came in the form of a $54,896 dinner tab.

Next up is an Indianapolis Colts defense that ranks among the best in the NFL at stopping the pass, mostly because teams to choose to run against them instead. Indianapolis is among the worst at stopping the run, and teams want to leave quarterback Peyton Manning on the sideline as much as possible.

If there are any plays to be made, look for No. 88 to try making them.

"Of course," Bryant said. "When you're number is called on, you've got to make the play."

Notes:Cowboys RB Marion Barber (calf) didn't practice again, making it less likely he'll play Sunday. ... LB Keith Brooking (foot) also didn't practice again. His absence Wednesday was believed to have been merely midweek rest for a veteran, but perhaps there's more to it. ... Bryant was added to the list under limited participation because of a back injury.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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