And Dez Bryant's in demand. That was going to be my story of the day. "In my 24 years in the business,'' his agent, Eugene Parker, said Saturday, "I've never seen so many teams so interested in finding out everything about a player.'' Look at Bryant's two-week tour, culminating in Colorado on Wednesday night, the last day players can visit teams at their facilities before the draft:
Thur., April 1: Dallas (Irving, Texas)
*Cleveland was scheduled to host Bryant Wednesday morning, before he flew to Denver to meet with Broncos officials. But a source close to the Browns told me last night, "He's no longer on our list. He's not visiting us.''
NFL teams will have a tough call on Tim Tebow. The call might be tougher on Bryant. Teams wonder about his character after he lied to the NCAA about having dinner with Deion Sanders and was suspended for 10 games last season. (An idiotic sanction. Too severe if you ask me. But Bryant did get caught in a lie.) Teams wonder about the influences around him, and whether he'll be solely devoted to his NFL job once he gets drafted. Teams wonder about his maturity. And no wonder: His mother was incredibly young when she conceived him -- 12, Parker says, though the New York Times reported she was 14 when she became pregnant with the first of three kids she had in her teens. She later served time on a drug rap, and Bryant shuttled from "home'' to "home'' as a child.
"I'm amazed you're not a statistic by now,'' I said to Bryant Saturday as he left Baltimore. He was flying home to Dallas, to spend one night in his own bed before continuing on the trip Sunday in Tampa. "I'm amazed you're still here. How'd you do it?''
"Just staying positive,'' he said. "I used all the negative stuff in my life as motivation. I tried to stay humble. It's a blessing to have been able to overcome everything I have. By me going through everything, it's made me a stronger person.''
When Bryant meets with teams, the questions invariably are the same. They're about his suspension, his relationship with Sanders, who are the biggest influences in his life, and whether he'll be myopically devoted to football. He's a receiver with top-five-in-the-draft talent, who might get picked in the second half of the first round because teams see too many red flags.
I think Bryant might be turning a corner in these meetings. He admits his mistakes. He doesn't blame the NCAA. He doesn't blame his upbringing. It may be well-rehearsed, but if it is, he sounds sincere and hasn't had a hiccup.
"I just go and try to be me,'' he said. "People who know me know I'm not a bad guy. I made a mistake. I learned from it. I think it matured me. What I want these teams to know is I never committed a crime. I've never been in trouble with the police. Don't smoke weed. Don't drink. Whoever drafts me is going to get a dedicated, hard-working player.''
His two-week odyssey, he said, is "all business. I don't consider this exciting, and I don't consider draft day exciting. Just business. It's all on the path of getting ready to play pro football. When I get drafted, that's not the exciting part. Getting to a team and starting to work, that's what I'm looking forward to.''
He said three of the teams he visited either told him he'd be their pick if he was on the board when their first-round pick came up, or hinted strongly at it. The reason I don't want to put headlines on that is simple. Every year, teams tell players, "You're our guy,'' then end up picking another guy. So let's not get too excited about a "promise'' that may or may not be true. But many of the teams he's visiting could use a productive deep threat.
Roy Williams has disappointed the Cowboys terribly. The Bengals have no legit complement to Chad Ochocinco. The Broncos are still looking to trade Brandon Marshall and will need a field-stretcher to play opposite Eddie Royal. New England needs the next Randy Moss, and receiver depth. That'd be an interesting fit -- Moss mentoring Bryant. He could tell the kid about how he slid low in the first round because of off-field issues in high school and college.
"On TV all these years, I never saw Bill Belichick smile,'' Bryant said. "But we had a great conversation, and he was smiling a lot. I really liked it there. I think I'd be a good fit there.''
The teams that make the most sense to me: Denver, picking 11th, Miami (12th), San Francisco (13th, 17th), Pittsburgh (18th) and New England (22nd). Of course, the Patriots, with three second-round picks, could move up to a team wanting extra picks (Jacksonville at 10, perhaps) to make sure they can get him. Where Bryant goes will be one of the best stories of an intriguing draft.
NFL Truth & Rumors