Dez Bryant is a definite star on the football field, but it’s his off-field antics that the Dallas Cowboys management team don’t trust and continue to raise serious concern about. In a recent video report on the NFL website, there were six police calls between 2001 and 2013 involving people at Bryant’s house. Among the incidents, there was a harassment incident, there was a robbery at his house, the fire department had to come and unlock his car that had a sleeping baby inside. All of these things give the Cowboys cause for concern. He’s had anger management issues, and they have a manager with him at all times. But they are very nervous, and this is one reason they have not wanted to give him the guaranteed money that most elite receivers get. Still, the calls have resonated loudly at the headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys.
In a report by the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys were well aware of the calls, long before they made news. They’ve examined the issues, and they really just don’t trust Bryant off the field. The preference of the organization, which keeps closer watch on Bryant than it does on his teammates, would be to limit the number of people who live at or drop by the house. Although 13 months have passed since the last call, three Cowboys employees in recent weeks separately used the word “concern” in describing Bryant’s living arrangement. All three asked not to be identified. One said there are as many as 10 people at the house.
Bryant’s expiring contract was his first with the Cowboys. His rookie contract was for five years and $11.8 million. But the Cowboys, who surround Bryant with a support system designed to keep him out of trouble, have a new contract to work out with their 26-year-old star wide receiver after the season. Millions are at stake in the salary-capped world of the NFL. When a Dallas Morning News reporter hoped to broach the subject with Bryant two weeks ago, he became enraged and stormed through the halls of Valley Ranch shouting epithets.
“No one can tell me who can live at my house,” he said moments later in the privacy of a meeting room, while declaring that only three others live at the home. “Do you ask DeMarco Murray who is at his house?”
Bryant and star running back Murray, whose contract also expires at season’s end, have very different histories since joining the Cowboys. Murray has never been linked to run-ins with law enforcement, and has never been asked to abide by special rules of conduct. The Cowboys have never expressed any concern about Murray.
This has been a stellar season for the Cowboys. The newly crowned NFC East champion Cowboys are preparing for Sunday’s game at the Washington Redskins, and then the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Bryant has been a key player for the team with his 14 touchdown catches that lead the NFL in that category. He has been selected to play in the Pro Bowl. He stands to remain the Cowboys’ go-to receiver for seasons to come if he and the team can agree on a new deal. The price tag should run more than $100 million and the Cowboys want to safeguard their investment.
The issue at season’s end may be how much money the Cowboys want to guarantee a player with whom they feel most comfortable when he is in a protective womb. Owner Jerry Jones on radio last week cited the NFL salary cap when asked about Bryant. He mentioned that the Cowboys didn’t have to sign Bryant to a long-term deal, but could keep him on the team by designating him as a “franchise player” for 2015. How much that would be has yet to be determined. In 2014, it translated to $12.3 million, far short of the guaranteed money in a long-term, nine-digit contract.
Bryant believes that after a shaky off-field start with the Cowboys, he has shown enough maturity to warrant the long-term contract and more freedom. The Cowboys are fearful of loosening their grip. The Cowboys credit what has become known as the “Dez Rules” — which implemented curfews, places to stay away from, and counseling — for the relative calm that has recently surrounded Bryant. Bryant had a somewhat tumultuous start with the Cowboys, after he arrived as the 24th overall pick in the 2010 draft. He made headlines after he was asked to leave a Dallas area mall, when he and his friends refused to pull up their sagging pants. He was named in lawsuits over unpaid debts. He was involved in a verbal altercation at a Miami club.
And then there was a physical altercation with his mother in the summer of 2012 that resulted in Bryant being arrested on a domestic violence charge, as reported by the Inquisitr. In the end, the assault charge was conditionally dismissed by the Dallas County district attorney’s office after his mother chose not to pursue charges. Bryant agreed to attend a family violence treatment program. Angela Bryant now lives in a home not far from her son.
The Cowboys and Bryant apparently were close to a new contract before the season, but they couldn’t come to an agreement. Bryant has since changed agents, and is now represented by Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports, which is working to get him one of the largest paying contracts in NFL history. He is now on his third of five seasons. The Cowboys’ last reported offer limited the amount of guaranteed money in the early years of the contract to try to protect themselves should any serious trouble surface.
“What trouble have I gotten into lately?” Bryant, his voice still raised, asked in the relative calm of the meeting room. “The answer is none.”
The “Dez Rules” also include security escorts to accompany Bryant where ever he goes. Dez also has a support group of prominent citizens established by the Cowboys management team to mentor him. The informal group includes Dr. Donald Arnette Jr., a cardiologist who lives not far from Bryant, and his father, Donald Arnette Sr., a retired deputy administrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as former Cowboys Michael Irvin, now an analyst at the NFL Network, and Nate Newton, who has recovered after his own trouble with the law, and Royce West, Texas state senator who is also the owner of Bryant’s current home.
“We want to put people around him who don’t need anything from him,” said one Cowboys employee, who emphasized he feared far too many people hanging around Bryant.
Arnette, the cardiologist, said he has not had as much contact with Bryant as he would like.
“You know how kids are,” he said. “They think they know more than anyone else. I don’t think Dez has found that one guy who he really looks up to.”
As for Bryant’s friends who visit his house — or “home boys” as Arnette calls them — “just look at the numbers. What are the odds they all have his best interests at heart? It’s not just Dez. It’s every freakin’ athlete.”
“I wish Dez had a stronger inner circle,” he said.