Bryant: Pre-draft criticism has ‘gone too far’
AP Sports Writer
EDITOR’S NOTE – This is the second installment of a periodic diary-style story from Dez Bryant that will move in the weeks leading up to the April 22 draft.
Dez Bryant is fed up. With less than a month to go before his football fate will be decided in the NFL draft, Bryant has faced a barrage of criticism from all angles.
The latest round came after his workout for NFL scouts Tuesday, his first chance to show whether he’s kept in shape after having his final college season cut short by an NCAA suspension.
Bryant had already endured questions about his integrity, stemming from the fact that he lied to an NCAA investigator about his interaction with former NFL player Deion Sanders in the offseason between his sophomore and junior seasons at Oklahoma State.
He had dealt with questions about his background, being raised by a young mother in Texas.
He had faced rumors that he skipped meetings, classes and was even late for games while at OSU.
And then, of all things, his pro day was spoiled by banter that he’d forgotten to bring the cleats he planned to wear for the workout.
“I’m not the type of person that will try to confront somebody but now I feel like it’s gone too far. It’s gone too far,” Bryant said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I ain’t never got in trouble with nobody. I never said anything. I don’t say anything wrong to nobody. I’m friendly. This here is too far.
“What do this got to do with me playing football? Even if I did forget my cleats, what do that have to do with me playing football? I don’t think it has anything to do with me playing football.”
Bryant questions why he has faced such a flurry of rumors following his college career, which came to an early conclusion just three games into his junior season. He had 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns and also returned two punts for scores in 2008.
He was the only 2008 Biletnikoff Award finalist to return to school last season and entered the season as the top receiver in college.
But most of the scrutiny Bryant has been facing has dealt with everything but his playing ability.
“What is this? Y’all don’t want me to go to the NFL or something? It’s going to happen,” Bryant said. “It is going to happen. God blessed me to have this ability to play this game.
“I haven’t did anything wrong to nobody.”
Bryant said he believes he has received more criticism than even players who have had run-ins with the law.
“I don’t look for trouble. I don’t find trouble or none of that stuff. I’m not a troublemaker,” Bryant said. “Just because I’ve experienced bad things, that don’t make me no bad person. That don’t make my mom a bad person. My mom overcame a lot of adversity just as well as I have.
“People change. I don’t think people understand that. People change, and I thought my mama did that. And all this stuff that I’ve been reading, I just feel like it’s foolish. It is foolish.”
Bryant won’t know for sure until the draft begins on April 22 whether NFL teams are questioning his character or believe his side of the story.
“Any teams who don’t draft me who think I have background problems or any of that, you’re not going to draft me because of stuff that happened in my childhood? What about now? What’s been going on with Dez now? Nothing bad’s been going on with Dez. Nothing at all,” Bryant said.
“Whoever passes up on me, it’s over with. I feel like I’m going through the same situation Randy Moss did,” he added. “That man had issues and teams were passing up on him, and when he got on that field, he killed them. He murdered them. Look at him today: One of the best players in the NFL.”
Until he can prove himself on the field, Bryant can only defend himself with his words.
– He said he brought six pairs of shoes to his pro day-style workout at his high school in Lufkin, Texas, and – regardless of the hubbub around his missing cleats – he was happy with his performance although “in my mind I always feel like there’s room to improve.”
“You know how players have their particular cleats that they want, the ones they are comfortable in? I didn’t have those,” Bryant said. “I’m not saying it would have made any difference. But I’m saying I didn’t have those.”
– He said it was “just not possible” for him to be late for a game while he was at Oklahoma State and takes issue with the suggestion that he’s irresponsible.
“It ain’t about my background. It’s what I’m going to do for the team. It’s what I’m going to bring to your team,” he said. “That’s what it’s about.”
– He even defends his decision to work out with Adam “Pacman” Jones, who was suspended for the entire 2007 season after a series of off-the-field incidents.
“Why down talk the man? The man did everything right. He’s working out. He’s doing good. What happened in the past was the past. That’s just like anybody else. If they did something wrong, they would be looking for a second chance.”
Bryant could use a second chance, too – in the eyes of his critics.
“Whenever somebody gets the wrong impression about somebody – not just me, about anybody – I don’t like that at all because I just feel like that’s not right,” Bryant said. “Especially whenever someone goes and gets some information about this person and then goes to that person, I just feel like that is not right because it’s not right.
“I’ve never spoke my mind. I just sit back and listen. But now I just feel like it just went too far.”