Why Dez Bryant’s Refusal to Carry Roy Williams’ Pads Could Become a Big Deal
By Jonathan Bales
Rookies of all talent levels–from first-rounders to undrafted free agents–are often “asked” to participate in rites of passage. One of the more common forms of hazing is the veteran players forcing the rooks to carry their pads. The task is simple and easy, yet ultimately conveys a message: no matter who you are, no matter where you are from, you must earn respect to play in the NFL. Dallas Cowboys players must earn their star.
I’ve written about the on-field battle in which Dez Bryant and Roy Williams will partake, but earlier today the two may have created a minor off-field issue when Bryant refused to carry the pads of Williams. Said Bryant:
I’m not doing it. I feel like I was drafted to play football, not carry another player’s pads. If I was a free agent, it would still be the same thing. I just feel like I’m here to play football. I’m here to try to help win a championship, not carry someone’s pads. I’m saying that out of no disrespect to [anyone].
Bryant’s stance is simple. As a grown man, carrying another player’s pads is demeaning. For Bryant, it is a man-to-man issue and would still exist even if Bryant was undrafted instead of the Cowboys’ top pick.
Williams has a different take on the situation:
“Everybody has to go through it,” Williams said. “I had to go through it. No matter if you’re a No. 1 pick or the 7,000th pick, you’ve still got to do something when you’re a rookie.
“I carried pads. I paid for dinners. I paid for lunches. I did everything I was supposed to do, because I didn’t want to be that guy.”
Williams recognizes the rites of passage that are inherent to the NFL. For grown men (and some of the strongest ones in the world) who work incessantly, carrying a helmet and shoulder pads a few hundred feet isn’t all that difficult. When he asked Bryant to carry his pads, it wasn’t out of laziness or disrespect–it was really a way for the two to bond.
Of course no one knows for sure what was going through Bryant’s mind, but it seems as though he is magnifying the level to which carrying a fellow player’s pads is demeaning and misunderstanding the deeper reasoning behind it. The NFL is like a club–if you want to join, you really oughta play by their rules.
The primary reason it is so imperative for Bryant to toe the company line is due to a less-than-flattering perception of him that likely still exists. Whether Bryant or his agent (Eugene Parker) admit it, repairing that image was one of the major reasons they were willing to complete Bryant’s contract so quickly, making him the first player selected in the first-round to sign a deal.
While Bryant doesn’t view it this way, acting “bigger than the team” by refusing to carry a player’s pads (as a rookie) can only tarnish his reputation–a reputation he has worked diligently to salvage.
Of course, Bryant isn’t purposely attempting to stir up trouble or act like a diva. Instead, the refusal was a misinterpretation. Bryant is viewing the pad carrying for what it is, perhaps missing the larger picture of team chemistry that it invokes.
Let’s hope this issue doesn’t transform into something larger. Williams already responded to the idea that it won’t take long for Bryant to become the starter by saying, “I bought a Ford F-250 2011. Everybody loves a new car but I also have a 2004 Navigator that’s still running. So that’s the way I feel.”
Bryant may be a new Ford F-250, but his refusal to carry Williams’ pads won’t help his image among fans, media, and where it counts the most–within the Dallas locker room. He may be wise to appease the old 2004 Navigator that currently has the parking spot he covets.