Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryanthas tendered a strong denial to the notion his seven-year career has been marked by a pattern of irresponsible behavior, highlighted by 20-plus late or missed meetings.
While Bryant has consistently been an offensive focal point for "America's team," he said Sunday that he must be "America's most hated."
"We don't even know who's saying it," said Bryant, after sources earlier told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Bryant had been tardy to or missed 20 to 40 meetings in his career. "That's the crazy part about it. I get messages from my friends, talking about, 'It's just crazy.' Because it is crazy."
Bryant missed Sunday's 24-17 win over theSan Francisco 49ersa week after hurting his knee. After Bryant was injured in a victory over the Chicago Bears a week ago, he missed treatment and an MRI appointment on Monday, plus team meetings Tuesday and Wednesday after not communicating with the team. He later expressed regret.
According to at least one Cowboys player, it was only the latest instance in a pattern of careless actions.
"If you were hoping for him to come to a scheduled meeting, he may or may not be there. But if you need a first down on third-and-14, throw it to Dez," said the Cowboys player, who spoke to ESPN under the condition he remain anonymous.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said "on the face," the number of reported missed meetings by Bryant was not accurate, though he offered that "since the beginning of time, meetings and the timeliness of his meetings have been his No. 1 issues."
"Because only God knows how many of his meetings one way or another he has missed," Jones added.
The Cowboys owner and general manager said he was satisfied enoughwith Bryant's timeliness to sign him to a long-term extension last year.
"Twenty, 40 meetings? Tell me when. Tell me, please. Just tell me," Bryant said. "At the same time, man, I'm not going to lose focus on some he-say, she-say. We don't even know who say, to be honest, because I know exactly what we've been building in this organization. It's totally different. It's nothing like in the past."
Bryant has hired a driver to improve his attendance, but one source told Schefter that Bryant has been late for or missed treatment on a foot injury that dates back to last season "at least seven or eight times this year alone."
While Bryant tries to change, one source expressed concern that the Cowboys are enabling bad behavior by fining the wideout instead of meting out harsher discipline.
"You see me as a man," Bryant said. "I owned up to mine, and that's exactly what I'm going to continue to keep on doing. I refuse to let any of this crazy crap take me off of what we're trying to build here."
Another source expressed concern over how Bryant's decisions could affect his career longevity; this source thinks that Bryant's lack of sleep and poor eating habits will prevent him from extending his career as long as he could.
"If I was never injured, you know, none of this stuff would be said," Bryant said. "At the same time, like I said, whoever said it, man, they got a name. They would've put themselves out there and they didn't. So they can take their s--- and go on about their business."
Information from ESPN's Todd Archer and Adam Schefter was used in this report.