Inside This Week’s SI 2013 NFL Preview: Dez Bryant is a Grown Man

Dez Bryant SINow that his talent and maturity are in better balance, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is finally ready to take off as a pass-catching star, writes Austin Murphy in this week’s SI 2013 NFL Preview. As the Cowboys added structure to his life, it started to click for Bryant, who might have been the NFL’s best receiver in the second half of last season. “It’s not like I didn’t want to do things the right way,” Bryant says. “I just really never knew how to get there, if that makes sense.” (PAGE 60) You can read the entire article on SI.com here.

Bryant has long been pegged as “troubled,” but Murphy finds he wasn’t a bad seed. Rather, his maturity and talent were out of balance.  Murphy asks Bryant about his arrest in July 2012 for allegedly assaulting his mother. The police report says he grabbed her by her T-shirt and hair, bruised her arms and hit her across the face with his ball cap. Asked to address those allegations, Bryant says, “I would be a crazy dude, man, to put my hands on my mom. I did not put my hands on my mom, did not even attempt to put my hands on my mom”—other than to defend himself, he clarified. What about the hat? “I remember taking my hat off and slamming it on the ground,” he says, but he denies hitting her. “I love my mom,” he replies. “We love each other.” (PAGE 62)

When he was suspended for most of his 2009 junior year at Oklahoma State for lying to the NCCA about having a relationship with Deion Sanders, Bryant says he panicked. “I lied,” he concedes. “I didn’t take any gifts. But I should’ve told them I went to his home.” (PAGE 62)

Murphy also dives into Bryant’s childhood. His mother, Angela, had Bryant when she was just 15. When Dez was eight, she was arrested for selling crack and spent 18 months in jail. Dez moved in with his father, from whom he is now estranged. Bryant fought through tough times as a child knowing that he was destined to be a great football player. “I always felt chosen,” Bryant says. “By that I mean, God gave me the ability to help myself and my family. I always had that in my head.” (PAGE 60) Bryant is not yet ready to talk at length about his upbringing. “When you hear the whole story, I promise you, you’re gonna be overwhelmed.” (PAGE 66)

Murphy writes that nobody ever questioned Bryant’s love of the game or his work ethic. “Dez is one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had,” says eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. “What’s happening now is that he’s raised the bar for himself. He’s attacking meetings the way he attacks practices and games. He’s becoming a true pro.”

In Bryant’s rookie year, Dallas coach Jason Garret recalls, “we could have fined him five hundred times. He’s late for this, late for that . . . . He had no structure in his life.” (PAGES 59-60). While Bryant may still squirm through meetings, Garrett says he has become, “a more consistent person,” doing what he’s supposed to do on a more regular basis. “He gets back to you when you text him. His routes are more precise. He knows what his hot adjustments are.” (PAGE 60)

After Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo forced a bullet pass to Bryant in a scrimmage during the Cowboys’ first day of full contact at this year’s training camp, a longtime team observer noted, “That’s why Dez is going to have a big year. Romo trusts him now.” (PAGE 60)


Drinking And Driving And Dying

drinkingProfessional athletes do not cause more DUI fatalities than other Americans—they just make more headlines. But with so many resources in place for athletes to avoid driving drunk and numerous high-profile tragedies in recent years, senior writer Thomas Lake wonders in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED why athletes today simply don’t know better?

Lake takes readers through a timeline of the most high profile drinking and driving related accidents involving professional athletes, including many that included fatalities like last year’s DUI related accident involving Josh Brent of the Dallas Cowboys that killed his teammate and friend Jerry Brown.

Lake reports that years before the tragic accident, while playing at Illinois, Brown and Brent both ran into trouble by driving without valid licenses and even worse—Brent was arrested for DUI in February 2009. He was kicked off the Illinois team and spent two months in prison. After his release, Brent attended a court-ordered victim-impact panel where he learned about horrific accidents related to drunk driving.

Lake then chronicles the night that never should have been.  After a night of partying on December 8, 2012, just five miles from the apartment that Brent and Brown shared, Lake writes: “Brent had a choice to make…He can call a confidential safe-ride service administered by the NFL Players Association. He can call one of two limousine services affiliated with the Cowboys. He can call a member of the Cowboys’ staff whose job it is to be available all day and all night to help the players however he can. Josh Brent does none of those things (PAGE 61).” Brown had similar choices to make other than getting in as a passenger. The result: A terrible car accident that left Brown dead (Brent survived with minimal injuries). According to a police report, Brent’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.189, more than twice the legal threshold of intoxication.

Lake notes the 2012 USA Today analysis that found NFL players are arrested on drunken-driving charges less often per capita than members of the general population. Yet, he says “What distinguishes the sports figures is their financial ability to hire drivers. And now, with Safe Ride solutions, they have fewer excuses to drive drunk than they ever had before.” (PAGE 59)


This week on the tablets: Predecessors of JaMarcus Russell on the list of NFL busts

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Senior writer Jon Wertheim’s (@jon_wertheim) profile on former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell has generated a lot of conversation this week. Two years after he last played a down, he remains the most maligned figure in football and is still widely considered “the biggest washout in NFL history,” as Wertheim writes. And yet his fall is nothing new in the history of the NFL; No. 1 overall picks have been turning into busts ever since there has been a draft. (The very first pick, Jay Berwanger in 1936, never played a down in the NFL.) With that in mind, the tablet edition of this week’s issue includes hotspots on six of the most notable washouts among No. 1 overall picks in the past 50 years.

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Also in this week’s Sports Illustrated: The Chargers’ inability to win in the east, Clemson football is dancing with joy and David Beckham’s future in Los Angeles

You’ve seen our World Series cover featuring the Rangers and Cardinals, read JaMarcus Russell’s side of the story and found out who the NFL’s fastest player is according to our weekly Players Poll. Here is what else awaits readers in the Oct. 31 issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands today.

PILE ON THE CHARGERS – DAMON HACK (@si_damonhack)

The Chargers’ 27–21 loss to the Jets on Sunday was the latest misstep in their recent history, when they have looked like a Super Bowl contender only to travel east and lose. Since 2000 they are a meager 8–18 on the road against the teams now in the AFC East and AFC North, including 1–4 at New England, 0–4 at Pittsburgh and 0–2 at Baltimore. For starting quarterback Philip Rivers, Sunday’s loss was his 10th in 11 road starts against the AFC East or AFC North since 2007. All of which solidifies a sentiment that has shadowed San Diego teams of recent vintage: that they are supremely talented and chronic underachievers (page 38).

On the Tablets: This week on his NFL podcast, senior writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) interviews Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray and Colts vice chairman Bill Polian. Plus, the Week 8 edition of his “Last Word on the NFL.”

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2011 NFL Preview: Peter King Predicts Falcons over Chargers in Super Bowl XLVI

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Can senior NFL writer Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) correctly predict who plays in the Super Bowl for the second year in a row? King was on the money last year when he said the Packers and Steelers would reach football’s Promised Land. Now, after a four-week road trip through over 20 training camps, King predicts the Falcons will take down the Chargers, 24–20, in Super Bowl XLVI. This year’s NFL Preview also contains detailed scouting reports for every single team and a list of eight great matchups for every division.

The six regional covers for the Sept. 5 NFL Preview—on newsstands Wednesday—feature Jerod Mayo (Patriots), Calvin Pace (Jets), Curtis Lofton (Falcons), Lamarr Woodley (Steelers), Clay Matthews (Packers) and DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys). Below is the last time each team appeared on the cover and how many appearances they’ve had overall:

  • Falcons: Sept. 6, 2010 (NFL Preview, regional cover); seventh appearance
  • Patriots: Jan. 24, 2011 (divisional playoff loss to the Jets); 25th appearance
  • Jets: Jan. 24, 2011 (divisional playoff win over the Patriots); 22nd appearance
  • Steelers: Jan. 30, 2011 (AFC championship game win over the Jets); 39th appearance
  • Packers: Feb. 14, 2011 (Super Bowl XLV win over the Steelers); 36th appearance
  • Cowboys: July 26, 2010 (Miles Austin/training camp); 48th appearance

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