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Troubled Dez Bryant comes up big for Cowboys


Great one game. Hard to find the next. A scene at the mall one year. Trouble with the law the next.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant is the riddle many had feared when character issues allowed the Dallas Cowboys to take one of the best players in the 2010 draft late in the first round.

Don’t look now, but Bryant has multiple 100-yard receiving games for the first time as a pro, and is coming off a career-high 145 yards and a critical fourth-quarter touchdown against Cleveland. Barring injury or another twist to the story, he’ll probably have his first 1,000-yard season.

Now is as good a time as any to ask whether Bryant is finally arriving in his third season, though not even the ultimate Cowboys optimist is ready to give a definitive answer.

“The risk here is that he’s in the glaring spotlight of being on the field and off the field for the Cowboys,” owner Jerry Jones said. “So I’m reluctant that, we all are, to say that he’s doing good. Dez is doing better.”

Forget the numbers for a moment. The day after a potential resolution was announced in a domestic dispute with his mother, Bryant all but invited reporters to his locker so he could declare himself ready to put the “focus on football” — a phrase he repeated so often it made him laugh. Laughter of the right sort has been in short supply around Bryant most of his young pro career.

Three days later, he was there when Tony Romo needed him late in the game, matching the steady and reliable Jason Witten with three catches in the fourth quarter, including a 28-yard score that put Dallas ahead, and adding two more in overtime in the 23-20 Dallas win. Romo ended up throwing his way 15 times, and Bryant had 12 catches.

The previous two games at Cowboys Stadium, Bryant cost Romo an interception each time by not doing what his quarterback thought he would. Not that this time.

“He ran good routes, he was at his right depth and you see the kind of player he can be when he plays football at the level that he can,” Romo said. “That’s exciting to see his work ethic paying off.”

Quick kicks

Baltimore Ravens (8-2) S Ed Reed has avoided a one-game suspension after a successful appeal. He instead will be fined $50,000. Reed was suspended for one game without pay on Monday by the NFL for his third violation in three seasons of the rule prohibiting helmet-to-helmet hits against defenseless players. … The Carolina Panthers (2-8) have waived K Justin Medlock and replaced him with Graham Gano. … The New York Jets (4-6) have waived former Washington State WR Jason Hill and LB Marcus Dowtin. Hill had two catches for 15 yards and a touchdown in three games with the Jets. … The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) have signed WR Jordan Shipley and waived FB Will Ta’ufo’ou. … The Oakland Raiders (3-7) waived LB Aaron Curry two weeks after activating him to the 53-man roster. … The Atlanta Falcons (9-1) have announced the signing of OL Harland Gunn after backup OL Joe Hawley received a four-game suspension for violating NFL rules on performance-enhancing substances. … The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) brought back veteran WR Plaxico Burress to provide depth at a position decimated by injuries. … Charlie Batch, who is 5-2 while subbing for injured Ben Roethlisberger over the last decade, will start at quarterback for the Steelers on Sunday.

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