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Cowboys rookie Bryant never expected pads issue to escalate

SAN ANTONIO -- Dez Bryant insisted he was unaware of the rookie ritual of carrying a veteran's shoulder pads after practice. The Dallas Cowboys' first-round draft pick insists he would have done more than that had he known his refusal to accommodate Roy Williams' request would become such a big issue.

"I told Roy this ... he could have walked in with his tights on," Bryant said after the first of the Cowboys' two practices Tuesday. "I would have took his shoulder pads, his pants, his helmet, his socks, his shoes. I would have took everything. But you know what, that's not even an issue."

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Bryant, the talented wide receiver who slipped to 24th overall in the NFL draft in April because of questions about his character and talk of him skipping meetings and classes at Oklahoma State, said he's trying to do all the right things with the Cowboys at training camp.

"But it seems like I can't do the right thing because every little thing that I do (reporters) watch it and try to make a big deal out of it," Bryant said.

Plenty of drama and headlines ensued when Bryant didn't carry Williams' pads after the first workout Sunday, then the rookie said he was drafted to play football, not take care of someone else's gear. He jogged off the field without commenting Monday after the story had spread quickly and widely.

Bryant was clearly frustrated Tuesday as he answered repeated questions about the situation and his relationship with Williams, all while signing autographs for fans chanting their support for the rookie wearing the coveted Cowboys No. 88.

"We are fine. Matter of fact, it is not even a situation," Bryant said. "Me and Roy are great. Not only Roy, but the whole team. ... Everybody on the team likes me, and I like everybody on the team. (Reporters) are trying to put me and Roy against each other. That's not going to happen. We're trying to do something real special here."

As Bryant signed footballs, caps, posters and T-shirts with media surrounding him, several fans shouted "Leave him alone" and "We want Dez!"

Though Bryant is expected to challenge for the starting spot opposite Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin on a team with Super Bowl expectations, Williams repeatedly has said that everything is good between all the receivers.

"Every team I've been on, and all the different guys that have been in our groups, the receivers have always been a tight-knit group. That's what we are right now," Williams said. "It's not me vs. Dez, or me vs. Miles or Miles vs. Dez. When it comes down to it against Washington (in the season opener), it's going to be us vs. them."

Bryant played just three games for Oklahoma State last season because of his NCAA suspension for lying to investigators about a meeting with former Cowboys star and current NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders. Bryant later skipped the NFL Scouting Combine and held his own pro day.

But the Cowboys checked into everything and quickly traded up three spots to grab Bryant after he kept sliding down on the opening night of the draft. He agreed before camp to a five-year contract that guarantees him at least $8.3 million. Bryant received a $1.95 million signing bonus and is due a $570,000 roster bonus during camp.

After just a few days in the Alamodome, Bryant already is drawing cheers like Cowboys who wore No. 88 before him -- Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson. Bryant has made impressive catches in just about every practice session and shown signs that he could become a top receiver for Tony Romo.

"Very high, very high," Williams said when asked about Bryant's talent level and performance in camp. "We got a steal at the 24th pick. It's unfortunate that he fell that far, but we're glad to have him. He's going to help us out tremendously, and he's going to be a longtime Cowboy."

While Bryant hasn't carried any shoulder pads except his own, he said he has no problem with another rookie tradition of paying for meals.

"Yeah, we'll make sure it's no problem," Williams said.

Asked where they might go eat, the veteran receiver joked, "maybe McDonald's."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press

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