FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Dez Bryant appeared in the locker room Thursday and seemed to be in a good mood, which was more than the Dallas receiver could say for the first two days of the week.
The 2014 All-Pro missed medical appointments and team meetings over two days away from the Cowboys this week, and coach Jason Garrett said he was trying to avoid news on his injured right knee that he thought would be bad but was better than expected.
Bryant declined to comment but kept a steady presence in the locker room for the 45 minutes it was open to reporters, at one point playing music loudly the same way he did last season when he was out with a broken foot and had a contentious relationship with the media.
Later, he sat smiling on a counter looking into the locker room while talking to a member of the public relations staff.
Garrett said Bryant missed an MRI on Monday and a team meeting Tuesday before finally getting the exam Wednesday. The MRI revealed a hairline fracture in a bone in his right knee, which he injured in last week’s win over Chicago.
It’s possible Bryant won’t miss Sunday’s game at San Francisco because the Cowboys have had similar scenarios with injury in the past. But he was missed the first two days of practice this week, an indication he’s unlikely to play.
“It stems from someone who is very passionate about what he does and he did not handle this the right way,” Garrett said. “He expressed that to me. He expressed that to other coaches and teammates. You can understand why he did what he did, given the passion that he has for the game and for this football team and where he thought he was. I’m not excusing any behavior that he has.”
Tight end Jason Witten, in his 14th season and closing in on the franchise record for games started, said he respected Bryant’s passion and appreciated the relationship they have.
“Anytime things like that happen, we all look at it and say, maybe we could do this different or do that different,” Witten said. “That happens. And every situation’s different. You handle it, you address it and you move forward as a team.”
Garrett said there were “repercussions” but didn’t specify whether there was a fine for Bryant, who signed a five-year, $70 million contract before last season.
“Dez understands he has a responsibility to be here,” Garrett said. “He was completely well-intended. He’s a driven guy and his response to this was not the right one. It was an understandable response given his personality and everything he puts into this.”
According to Garrett, Bryant was reacting to the initial diagnosis in the 31-17 win against the Bears. He injured the knee on a catch on the second play of the game but came back and caught rookie quarterback Dak Prescott’s first career touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Bryant missed seven games last season, the first five after breaking his right foot in the opener. The foot wasn’t the same all season, and he also battled ankle and knee injuries. The Cowboys opted to sit him the final two games when they were out of contention on the way to a 4-12 finish.
Garrett said the team had “indirect” communication with Bryant while he was absent, declining to be more specific.
“We just address it. We solve it. We move on,” Garrett said. “We have very direct conversations. He understands it. That’s not to suggest that everything he does going forward is going to be handled the right way.”
Witten defended his teammate.
“There was a lot of moving parts with the other stuff and moving logistics,” Witten said. “We all understand the standards and expectations for us. We’ve got to handle that and sometimes that’s difficult when you have setbacks with injuries or potential injuries.”
NOTES: Pro Bowl T Tyron Smith missed his second straight practice with a back issue that flared up late last week and caused him to miss the Chicago game.