The Cowboys Will Kick Off Training Camp Without Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys' rookie receiver Dez Bryant may start once the NFL regular season starts. But he'll be on the sidelines when training camp begins Friday in San Antonio.

Almost assuredly.

Barring an 11th-hour contract agreement, Bryant will be one of many NFL rookies to miss the official start of their NFL careers because of the league's looming labor issues. The NFL's current collective bargaining agreement expires after February's Super Bowl, and the ensuing uncertainty is leading to almost no one signing rookie contracts.

That's why this season is so friggin' important:

1. Super Bowl XLV is played right here in the Cowboys' back yard.

2. There may not be a next season.

Though the Cowboys and vice president Stephen Jones are talking to Bryant's agent, Eugene Parker, it appears unlikely that the receiver will avoid becoming the Cowboys' first 1st- or 2nd-round pick to miss the start of training camp since linebacker Darrin Smith in 1993.

I covered the Cowboys then for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and in those days prolonged contract squabbles were common. Emmitt Smith missed most of camp as a rookie and the first two games of 1993. This year, because of impending labor Armageddon, only two of the top 64 players drafted in April have signed.

With off-season OTAs (organized team activities) and minicamps, missing a couple days in San Antonio isn't too alarming for rookies like Bryant and linebacker Sean Lee. It'll just be strange to be at tomorrow night's Kickoff Party in The Alamodome and not have Bryant introduced as part of the team.

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