Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, left, says he doesn't compare himself to Lions superstar Calvin Johnson, right. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — Cowboys fourth-year receiver Dez Bryant explained Wednesday the thought process that helped him become one of the NFL's top receivers in 2012 and 2013.
"Just being focused, concentrating on every little thing and confidence," Bryant said on a conference call with Detroit reporters. "And pride, I think that's what all players have. That's the kind of mentality and the mindset you have to have if you want to go where you want to go."
So when Bryant told KESN-FM in Dallas Tuesday he thinks he can do everything Lions receiver Calvin Johnson can do — words Bryant said were taken the wrong way — he wasn't saying he's better than or equal to Johnson.
Instead, Bryant was displaying the confidence elite receivers need in the NFL.
Besides, as Lions coach Jim Schwartz pointed out, it would’ve been more shocking to hear Bryant list the things Johnson can do that he can’t than what he actually said.
But when Lions receiver Nate Burleson said Tuesday, “Sorry, Dez. Keep it real,” it added fuel to the unnecessary fire.
Bryant also said he texted Johnson to clear the air.
"Dez just needs to focus on what he needs to do each and every day, and that's what he does," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said on a conference call. "He's very passionate about the game; he works very hard at it.
"We all have a tremendous amount of respect for Calvin Johnson. He's a great football player, but what allows guys to be really good players is the confidence and the belief that they have in themselves and Dez is focused on himself and doing as well as he can do."
And so far in his three-plus NFL seasons, Bryant has done quite well and presents a tremendous challenge Sunday for a Lions secondary that has given up 100-plus yards to a receiver in four consecutive games. Bryant has 42 catches for 569 yards and six touchdowns so far in 2013.
"I think that a lot of young players have inconsistencies, and I think that since the last time we've seen him (in 2011), which has been a couple of years, he has really worked hard to put some of those inconsistencies behind him," Schwartz said. "We’re going to have our hands full getting him stopped."
In his first 50 NFL games, with the 50th coming last week, Bryant was more productive than Johnson with 242 catches for 3,440 yards and 33 touchdowns. Johnson had 217 catches for 3,362 yards and 25 touchdowns, but he played with a handful of different quarterbacks while Bryant has been primarily with Tony Romo.
And at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Johnson is more physically daunting than Bryant at 6-2, 220 pounds.
For Bryant to reach this level, he said he paid close attention to Johnson, Houston's Andre Johnson and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, but he doesn't compare himself to them.
"I wasn’t comparing myself at all," Bryant said of his Tuesday comments. "I think a lot of people took it the wrong way because clearly I said there's no comparison. That's something that I do not do. I don't compare myself with anybody.
"I think when you get to comparing yourself with others that's when you start to have a downfall."
Bryant said Johnson set the bar for all receivers when he broke Jerry Rice's single-season yardage record last season but wouldn't explicitly give Johnson the crown of best receiver in the NFL.
"Calvin Johnson set the standard, set that bar high for every wide receiver in the league," Bryant said. "It's really respect to him that he makes receivers like us go out there and try to be our best."