Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com
IRVING, Texas — The debate continues to rage about whether Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant‘s intensity is out of control, but tight end Jason Witten has nothing but praise for his teammate’s passion.
Witten was involved in a highly scrutinized sideline confrontation with Bryant late in Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions, when Witten and inactive defensive end DeMarcus Ware attempted to get a frustrated Bryant to focus again after the Lions scored the go-ahead touchdown with 12 seconds remaining.
There’s not a guy that you love playing more with on Sundays than Dez Bryant. I feel like I have a lot of passion and I think he matches that passion. I love that. It’s been an honor to watch him develop into the player and the person that he’s become, really an elite player at his position and what he does.
— Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, on teammate Dez Bryant
However, Witten is adamant that the incident and other emotional outbursts by Bryant on the sideline during the game are not evidence of a problem. On the contrary, Witten considers Bryant’s passion to be an asset for the Cowboys.
“There’s not a guy that you love playing more with on Sundays than Dez Bryant,” Witten said Wednesday. “I feel like I have a lot of passion and I think he matches that passion. I love that. It’s been an honor to watch him develop into the player and the person that he’s become, really an elite player at his position and what he does.”
Bryant has acknowledged that Witten and Ware were right to try to calm him down at the time, saying he was “heated” and that the veterans did their job by firmly and forcefully pointing out that the game wasn’t finished.
Witten, an 11-year veteran whom the 24-year-old Bryant considers a role model, indicated that the only unusual thing about the incident was the amount of attention it has received. He admitted that there have been times when his frustration has boiled over on the sidelines and teammates have encouraged him to focus.
“You can’t have too much passion in those situations,” Witten said. “It wasn’t about him. It was about our team. So you want more guys like that. I am not just saying that. It really is. You want more guys who care and that are upset. That’s all of us. It wasn’t about him. It’s about us.”
Witten said he considers Bryant to be a poised player, regardless of the perception of the fourth-year receiver. He said he doesn’t believe immaturity is still an issue for Bryant, who has credited Witten, quarterback Tony Romo and others with helping him make major strides as a professional and in his personal life during his NFL career.
“You’ve seen the way he’s developed over the last four years,” Witten said. “It’s pretty special, you know? I don’t think what happened on Sunday was a lack of poise. I thought he was very poised. There’s nothing wrong with being frustrated.”
Bryant has said he appreciates Witten’s willingness to be bluntly honest with him, on and off the field.
Witten appreciates Bryant’s willingness to listen. Witten knows that Bryant’s passion is fueled purely by a desire to win.
“I know he’s got a lot of respect for me, and I’ve honestly got a lot of respect for him,” Witten said. “Really, that’s what makes it special. Him and I, it’s a close relationship, and really it’s a handful of guys. He said that about Tony. He wants to make Tony proud and know that he can throw it up to him in any of those situations. That’s what makes him such a great teammate.
“If it was just about him, it would be different. That’s what you love about Dez. Any time it’s an opportunity, [he will say], ‘You did this to help out.’ And it’s like, ‘No, I really didn’t do that. You just kind of went over the top of the guy and caught the ball.’ But he’s always wanting you to feel a part of it and being there with him. That’s why you love playing with guys like that.”
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