POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 12, 2012:
How Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant can save the NFL
Since being drafted out of Oklahoma State University, Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has compiled a sizeable résumé at the NFL level. Quite the contrary to many of the league's best, however, Bryant's resume is more of a rap sheet than a collection of achievements.
Practically from the moment he traded one Cowboys uniform for another, Bryant has been one of the most controversial NFL players in recent memory. In his first professional training camp, Bryant managed to get himself into hot water with his teammates for refusing to partake in harmless bits of traditional rookie hazing. That same year, Bryant found himself banned from both a shopping mall and a P.F. Chang's restaurant, and sued for failing to pay for over a half-million dollars was worth of goods from a Dallas jeweler.
Adding to his laundry list of troubles, the Cowboys' star has also been at the center of a physical altercation involving the mother of one of his children, been connected to a quarrel involving rapper Lil' Wayne, skipped out on a personal appearance for which he'd already been paid $10,000, and most recently, been arrested for slapping his own mother.
Needless to say, Bryant has already achieved more in the realm of personal misconduct than most players do throughout an entire career.
As a result of Bryant's continued disobedience, the Dallas Cowboys recently issued a strict set of guidelines they insist the star receiver abide by. The rules, which took effect shortly after the team returned from their California-based training camp, prohibit Bryant from a number of potentially harmful activities including attending strip clubs and imbibing alcohol. Additionally, Bryant will be forced to attend counseling twice a week, adhere to a midnight curfew and be chaperoned by a security guard at all times.
While the Cowboys' idea for taming their troubled star may seem unconventional, it may be warranted with the recent rise in reckless NFL personalities. According to research compiled by The San Diego Union-Tribune, more than 600 NFL players have been arrested since 2000, with most having been convicted.
To understand the root of the problem, one needs to look no further than the personal history of Dez Bryant.
Born to a mother who was just 15 years old, Bryant's life began with immediate hardship. His mother, Angela Bryant, spent a considerable amount of time in prison for dealing drugs, and had such issues with addiction that she would often get high in front of her children. As a result, Bryant struggled both socially and academically throughout his childhood and found himself constantly shifted between households of various friends and relatives.
Like many gifted athletes however, Bryant's life took a turn once his physical potential was realized. From the moment he set foot on a high school football field he was a star. College scouts and coaches would line up for a chance to lure the kid who was regarded as one of the top-10 high school talents in the country. Essentially, by the age of 17, Desmond Demond Bryant was a star.
In college, as a member of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Bryant's talent played a significant role in intensifying the program's offense to a level the university had seldom seen. Soon, Bryant was regarded as one of the best wide receivers in all of college football, and once again, scouts crowded around the can't-miss prospect for a chance to dissect his unnatural talent.
By the time Jerry Jones scooped him up in the 2010 NFL Draft, Bryant's ego was firmly established. He had been an elite prospect in high school and was a two-time All American in college. And despite questions surrounding his character, he was regarded as one of the can't-miss players in the NFL Draft without even amassing a full collegiate career.
Once Bryant signed on the proverbial dotted line, he essentially had $12 million to go along with public adoration and non-stop praise. The one thing Bryant didn't have was a sense of how to handle the lavish life he had carved out for himself.
Like many of the NFL's unruly talents, Bryant was thrust into a veritable utopia without the life skills and self-discipline necessary to survive. Bryant's story is just a slight variation from those of the hundreds of NFL players who have struggled to abide by the laws of the land after finding fame and fortune. While Bryant may be one of the more notable of the NFL's problem children, he's certainly not alone.
Ridiculous as instilling a set of guidelines to corral a millionaire professional may sound, perhaps the league should take note of the unorthodox means by which the Cowboys are attempting to realign their troubled icon. While there's definitely no guarantee that Bryant's corrupt psyche will benefit from a set of moral standards -- or that Bryant will so much as abide by them -- the alternatives to repairing such maligned players are few.
With players committing crimes at such an alarming rate, it's time NFL commissioner Roger Goodell begins exploring measures to correct his league's behavioral issues rather than continuing to merely dole out fines and suspensions. Perhaps "The Dez Rules" are the answer for more of the NFL's problems than just the man they're named for. What's to say that a strict code of conduct and personal accountability couldn't benefit more potentially delinquent newcomers to the league? Maybe the answer to the NFL's growing problem of gross misconduct could be remedied by forcing the league's rookies to partake in an initial season of limited recreational activity and a little extra mentoring.
Surely it couldn't hurt.
Or maybe players like Dez Bryant are just lost causes -- wayward spirits that have drifted too far to be salvaged. Given the history of troubled stars like Chris Henry, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Donte Stallworth and a horde of others, it's quite possible there is no immediate solution.
Either way, Jerry Jones and his organization should be lauded for at least trying something new. While the odds are definitely not in favor of a transformation of the young star, the Cowboys recognize the value a talent like Bryant can bring not only to their organization, but also their fans. Regardless of how the rest of Dez Bryant's career plays out, the Cowboys can never be accused of anything less than merely making the effort to improve one troubled man's life.
Hopefully, for Bryant and the Cowboys, "The Dez Rules" become a foundation for the betterment of the National Football League. While such extreme measures often carry extreme criticism, such tactics are sometimes revolutionary.
Despite how we may feel about the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones or Dez Bryant, we should all hope for the best.
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