IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant knew there'd be payback for having refused to do the rookie rite of carrying teammates' shoulder pads during training camp. The check came due this week at the traditional rookie-picks-up-the-tab dinner.
The damage: $54,896.
The meal was supposed to be only for offensive players, but more than 20 guys showed up at a steakhouse – and brought their appetites, said Bryant's adviser, David Wells. The story first was reported by espn.com.
"People had goooood meals," Wells said, laughing. "If you'd never had lobster before, you had it that night."
Steaks, fish and plenty of beverages made for a fun evening, albeit at a high price. Then again, Bryant is making $2.8 million this season so he can afford it.
"Dez knew what he had to do and he took responsibility for it," said Wells, who wasn't there but saw the bill. "He made the best of it, nothing negative. He had a good time with the guys, bonding with his teammates."
Traditions like carrying pads and paying for meals are typical for NFL newbies. However, early in training camp, Bryant wasn't aware he was expected to schlep anyone's shoulder pads, which caused a bit of a tiff with veteran Roy Williams.
This time, Bryant knew what was coming.
"He just didn't know that many people were going to show up," Wells said.
Linebacker Keith Brooking wasn't among the diners. A week earlier, though, he was part of the meal paid for by rookie linebacker Sean Lee, a second-round pick.
"It wasn't near as expensive," Brooking said. "We weren't too hard on him. We weren't very nice, either. But it was fair, I think."
Bryant and other players declined comment Wednesday, though linebacker Leon Williams had a shiny silver bag from the steakhouse in his locker.
Did Bryant at least take home a doggie bag?
"I would hope he got a dog house out of it," Wells said.
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said during training camp he was against hazing, but that traditions are OK as long as everyone goes along. He was fine with this, adding that his wife hosts the other coaches' wives every year. They've already had this season's gathering at the tony restaurant of a famous Dallas hotel.
How much was that tab?
"I don't know, and I don't want to know," Phillips said, smiling.
Bryant is making news on the field, too.
Among rookie receivers, the former Oklahoma State star is leading in catches (14) and second in yards (158). He's living up to his reputation as a play-maker with catches of 28 and 30 yards, and a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown.
He's done it all despite having missed most of training camp and the preseason with a high ankle sprain and having suffered a stress fracture in his ribs during the opener. He was examined Wednesday for a possible hip injury caused by running into a camera man on the sidelines Sunday, but Phillips said it was nothing serious.
"He's transitioned awfully well," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. "To be able to come in and perform as well as he has over the course of the first three weeks has been very impressive."
Yet he's still a rookie, which means he's also making mistakes.
"He has to refine his route-running and his understanding of the offense, those kinds of things," Garrett said. "But he's someone who is not bothered by game situations. He embraces them. He loves to play. He has great enthusiasm and he can make plays. We've tried to do that and he's really stepped up and responded."