METAIRIE, La. — Dez Bryant said he’ll leave it up to Sean Payton whether he plays on Sunday. But the New Orleans Saints‘ new receiver said “that’s what we’re working on” after he completed his first practice with the team on Thursday.
“Whatever he has for me, I’m getting myself ready for it,” said Bryant, who hadn’t been with a team since the Dallas Cowboys released him in April.
“It was good,” Bryant said of his first practice. “Just knocking a little bit of the rust off, but it was good.”
Bryant, who turned 30 on Sunday, said he had been working out and getting his body and mind right all season — but he also acknowledged that he was “thinking about preparing for the next year” before he got the call from Payton to come audition in New Orleans.
“Just lot of ups and downs,” Bryant said when asked to describe the past two months. “Wanting to play football, thinking about playing football.”
Bryant said he had turned down other opportunities to work out this season — without offering any specifics. And he had reportedly turned down at least one multiyear contract offer during the offseason.
When asked what made this situation different, Bryant said, “For one, who wouldn’t want to play with Drew Brees?”
“Not taking away from nobody else, but you got a guy like Drew Brees. [And] you got a guy like Michael Thomas, [Benjamin] Watson, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, you got those types of guys — little baby GOATs around here,” said Bryant, who will be joining a 7-1 Saints team that has won seven straight games and ranks second in the NFL in scoring.
Thomas, for one, is excited about the idea of playing alongside a three-time Pro Bowl receiver whom he said he has been watching for years.
Thomas said he was picking Bryant’s brain on Thursday — just as Bryant was surely doing the same with Thomas as he gets acclimated to a new offense.
“It’s a blessing. I guess when I picked up that cellphone and made that call, it was God answering my prayers,” Thomas told reporters — a reference to Thomas’ touchdown celebration from this past Sunday. “He’s a guy about winning and eager for a fresh start. It’s cool to see.
“We’re just trying to help him get back to the Dez Bryant we know he is.”
Bryant’s production had started to taper off a bit in Dallas in recent years, partly due to nagging injuries. He caught just 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns in a full 16-game season in 2017.
The Cowboys released him in April before he was due $12.5 million this year — partly because of his production and partly due to a “fiery” personality that executive vice president Stephen Jones said could be “a distraction” — especially when it came to the development of young quarterback Dak Prescott.
Bryant said this summer in a tweet that was later deleted that he was being used as a “scapegoat” and said the team’s issue was “garbage ass playcalling.” He also called Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “clueless” and blamed his release on veterans Travis Frederick and Sean Lee, whom he called a “snake.”
Soon after, Bryant tweeted several times that he holds no bitterness or anger toward the Cowboys.
When asked Thursday if he thinks he will assimilate in a new locker room, Bryant said, “Of course.”
“I’m always gonna be me, you know, who I am. I’m not a bad guy. I’ve always been a good guy. You can ask my teammates — my ex-teammates — how I am,” Bryant said. “I love the locker room. It’s like family. Every locker room that I’ve been in from middle school, high school, college to the pros, it’s always been like a family. You have a natural bond. It’s more than just being in the locker room, it’s outside of it too.”
Bryant said he does not feel like he has something to prove after the way things ended in Dallas.
“Not at all, not at all. That chapter’s closed, that’s something I had to accept. I accepted that and moved on,” Bryant said. “I’m here with the New Orleans Saints, I’m a Saint now, I’m excited about that, and I’m looking forward to moving on with these guys.”
And when asked if it will be emotional for him when the Saints play at Dallas on Thursday night, Nov. 29, Bryant said, “You know, I honestly don’t know. I don’t know. But I am gonna be excited. I’ll get to see all the Cowboys fans. You know I still love those guys. I love my ex-teammates, they’re my family. But I’m here on a new chapter. It’s gonna be fun, but I’m the opponent now.”