So it is not surprising that they feel he can have a bounce-back season in 2016 after missing seven games a year ago with a broken foot and lingering ankle issues. He underwent surgery for those problems in January.
"He's done an outstanding job and been committed to being around, and I think that's only getting better," owner Jerry Jones said, via ESPN.com. "That's what we need of him, is to get well and do his rehab and then get in great shape. I think one of the tough things about last year for Dez, he plays with such energy.
"With the contract dispute, if you will, he wasn't around, which is business, and consequently he probably wasn't in his best shape going into the season. And then you start to add the injuries when players aren't in shape and they continued on through training camp and then on into the season and we ended up not having him much last year, so if he can get his rehab done and get himself in top condition, then I think we'll see the same Dez that we saw two years ago."
Jones' explination makes sense, and it's important to make a distinction here: he's not blaming the holdout on the broken foot, and by 'best shape' he likely means football shape. Athletes train all offseason but there are some movements that are entirely unique to the field. Bryant missed nearly all of the offseason workouts in 2015 during his contract impasse and injured his hamstring early on in training camp. Because injuries rarely heal over the course of a brutal NFL season, it was a slippery slope from there.
Now, though, Bryant is back and so is quarterback Tony Romo. The team's offense has plenty of weapons and are primed to contend for the division, assuming their defense can make up for a missing pass rush.
This also means Bryant is happy -- and when he's happy, opposing defenses better look out. In each of the three seasons before his injury, he either bested his catch, yardage or touchdown totals from the year before. In 2012 and 2014 he was averaging 15 yards per catch and catching around 90 balls per season. Bryant is only 27 years old and has plenty of growing left to do on the field.