Dez Bryant's advice to younger players: Don't play injured like I did

There was a time when Dallas Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant was considered arguably the best receiver in football. From 2012 through 2014, Bryant averaged 91 receptions for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns a year. During that three-season span, Bryant ranked sixth in the NFL in catches, fifth in receiving yards, and first in touchdowns. He was nearly unstoppable. 

But then injuries caught up to him. Early in the 2015 season, Bryant broke his foot. The initial diagnosis at the time was that he would miss four to six weeks, but there was concern at the time that the time frame was too quick. Despite that concern, Bryant did indeed return six weeks later. When he got back on the field, he was not nearly as effective, with the injury noticeably preventing him from getting his typical separation. Sure, the Cowboys did not have Tony Romo on the field and that contributed to the offense's ineffectiveness, but Dez didn't look like Dez anyway. 

The following year, the same thing happened. Bryant suffered a hairline fracture in his knee in late September. The Cowboys announced an injury timeline that seemed much too aggressive, stating that Dez was merely day-to-day or week-to-week. He wound up missing only three games before returning to play the rest of the season. He was again not quite as effective as he is at full-strength, though he did find some degree of chemistry with Dak Prescott down the stretch of the season. 

In 2017, Dez did not suffer any injury that kept him off the field, but he did battle nagging issues all year. And he also had his worst season since his second year in the league. Simply put, the injuries appear to have caught up to him over the years. Never one to admit that he's struggling with anything, Dez actually had some valuable perspective on the situation when asked what advice he would have for younger players coming into the league. 

"I'd tell them to get their body right," Bryant said, per the Dallas Morning News . "I would tell them that that's a mistake that I made. I'd tell them to get their body right. Keep it healthy, that should be the No. 1 goal. Sometimes you got to make those sacrifices. It's hard. You want to be out there on that field. You want to make plays. You want to be out there with your teammates. But you can't compromise your body. That's what I'd tell them."

Considering the speculation surrounding Dez's contract status -- he's set to count $16.5 million against the cap in 2018 and there are rumors that the Cowboys might cut him or ask him to take a pay cut -- it should maybe not be surprising that Dez is finally opening up about injuries. He clearly still believes he has the talent to be a true No. 1 receiver, but the production just hasn't been there lately. He can still dominate in the red zone and catch contested passes, but he hasn't been able to get the same kind of separation over the last few years. If he gets himself fully healthy, maybe he can tap back into the talent that made him so difficult to deal with from 2012 through 2014. 

CBS Sports Writer

Jared Dubin is a New York lawyer and writer. He joined CBSSports.com in 2014 and has since spent far too much of his time watching film and working in spreadsheets. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories
    24/7 Scores, News, Highlights
    FREE ON ALL YOUR DEVICES