It's Time for Antonio Bryant to Step Up Antonio Bryant's antics on the sideline have become old. The same goes for his woofing, whether it's directed toward teammates, coaches or the media. The time has come for Bryant to prove he's the talented receiver who had the Cowboys putting him and Michael Irvin in the same conversation just two years ago. After a good rookie year, Bryant was average last year. He dropped too many passes. And ran too many bad routes. He wasn't the difference-maker he kept insisting that he could be. Now, comes another chance. Bryant has worked hard in the weight room this offseason and added another five pounds. He's spoken to coach Bill Parcells and owner Jerry Jones about the things he must do to reach his immense potential. So now we wait. And we watch to see if he can do that. Keyshawn Johnson is in his 30s. So is Terry Glenn. Randal Williams is unproven. This is a thin receiving corps. One injury would wreck this unit as it stands. Bryant is the wildcard. If he can recapture the form he often flashed as rookie -- whether it was his last-second leaping touchdown to beat Carolina or his 170-yard effort in the finale to beat Washington -- then he has a long-term future in Dallas. If not, the Cowboys will be looking for another young receiver next year. Years ago, former coach Tom Landry told Parcells that if a player can't prove to him that he can be a difference-maker by his third season, it's best to release that player, move on and take a chance on another who could. This is Bryant's third year. It's time for him to prove he can be a difference-maker. COWBOYS Q & A Q: Have people totally forgotten about who's going to be the second corner this year? How's Pete Hunter's off-season going? Bernardo Mainou, Chapel Hill, N.C. TAYLOR: I don't think anyone is overlooking the importance of replacing Mario Edwards, but there's no way to know how Pete Hunter is going to do. I'm not really going to focus on him until the preseason begins. That's because all of the drills in training camp are really designed for the receiver to succeed. Most of the time there's no pass rush and the cornerback is always in man-to-man, so the receiver and the quarterback have a significant advantage. In preseason games, there's a pass rush. The receiver usually doesn't know what coverage is being played and doesn't know your favorite moves. It provides a much better laboratory to figure out whether someone can play or not. ••• Q: I read that Larry Allen refused a trade to Detroit. How can an NFL player who doesn't have a guaranteed contract refuse a trade? Also, aren't no-trade clauses omitted in the NFL? Jason Harter TAYLOR: Allen is supposed to earn $3.5 million this year. Detroit wanted to restructure his contract to fit him under its salary cap. Because Allen only wanted to be traded to Oakland, he declined to restructure his deal, thus voiding the potential trade. There aren't many no-trade clauses in the NFL, but a few players have them. Emmitt Smith had one. So did Troy Aikman and Rocket Ismail. ••• Q: I don't understand why we signed Troy Hambrick to a contract and then released him. Was the contract worth so little that it doesn't affect our cap room? Brian Gallogly, Boston TAYLOR: Signing the contract was really just a procedural move. He didn't receive a signing bonus, so the deal had no impact against the cap. NFL contracts aren't guaranteed in most cases, so if the player didn't get a signing bonus, it doesn't cost anything to release him. ••• Q: I like Quincy and want to see him do well because he has shown how much he cares about his job and the Cowboys with his work ethic. When I hear people ask what he needs to work on, I hear this standard answer: "He should work on cutting down on turnovers." That is like saying a basketball player should make more shots or a baseball player should hit the ball better. So my question is, what kind of throws does Quincy struggle with? Jason Harter, Dallas TAYLOR: That's one of the best questions I've had in awhile. Bill Parcells has talked about it several times, but Carter has made most of his mistakes when he's trying to make a play that isn't there. It's the kind of play that happens when he's on the run and suddenly thinks he sees a receiver break free and he throws the ball without seeing the safety break on it. If he eliminates those types of impulse throws, I think he'll be OK. He must also improve his mechanics. He had a couple of interceptions because the ball sailed on him. If his mechanics are consistently sound, that shouldn't happen. ••• Q: I'm a big Notre Dame fan and have followed the university's players into pro football since 1969. I was very surprised that the Cowboys chose to pass on several of the "higher-rated" college backs to take Julius Jones in the second round. Does Coach Parcells really believe Jones can make the impact Dallas needs to go to the next level? All signs point to that being the case, but what have you heard? John Cooney, Philadelphia TAYLOR: The Cowboys had Kevin Jones at the top of their draft board when it came to running backs. But the Cowboys didn't think Kevin Jones was so good that they could pass up the opportunity to get Julius Jones and a first-round pick from Buffalo next season. Parcells thinks Julius Jones will be a standout, but we'll find out for sure when the season starts. ••• Q: Can you help me understand a little more clearly why Troy Hambrick was released? Dustin Maycroft TAYLOR: Hambrick was released for two reasons. One, he wanted to be released. He didn't think he was going to make the team, so he thought it was better to be released right now. That way, he could find another team and learn the offense before training camp, which would give him a better chance to make the final roster. Secondly, the Cowboys know exactly what Hambrick can do. They think he's a solid, backup running back. But they wanted to give a younger player such as Erik Bickerstaff an opportunity to prove what he can do. You never know how a player will perform until you give him a chance. It's easy to go with veterans because they make fewer mistakes than young players. Now, Bickerstaff and Aveion Cason have a chance to prove they can be big-time players. ••• Q: At this point, how can anyone see Dallas higher than third in the NFC East? Ron Haas TAYLOR: Ron, don't forget that you have to play the games. That's what great about sports. A great roster doesn't make a champion. I had Dallas pegged for fourth last year with a record of 5-11, but they played better than I anticipated and won twice as many games. You have no idea who's going to get hurt. Or who's going to become a star. Or what team is going to have great chemistry. Or what team is going to fall apart because the players can't stand each other. On paper, it looks like Dallas might finish third or fourth, but what if Julius Jones is this year's Clinton Portis and Keyshawn Johnson thrives under Parcells and the defense finishes ranked No.1 again? If all of that happens, they might do a little better than third. The point is that no one knows, but we'll start to get some answers in the next three months. ••• Q: Any chance the Cowboys bring in Eddie George if he's cut? Scotty TAYLOR: I don't think so. He's old (30) and beat up and still wants to be a starter. If he were any good, Tennessee would gladly pay him $2 million a year to be their runner. ••• Q: A couple of weeks ago, you wrote an article about Drew Henson that said if he looks good now, wait until preseason. That's understandable, but you said that if he did not look so good, it would be something to worry about or have concerns with. I only bring this up because the press was talking about how bad Eli Manning was doing in the Giants' first minicamp. Why should we worry if Henson did poorly and the other quarterbacks did not? Chad Tidwell, Scott AFB, Ill. TAYLOR: The main point I was trying to make is that it's waaaaaaayyyyyy too early to try to judge whether Drew Henson is going to be a great quarterback this year or in the future. I don't worry about any player this time of year unless he's injured or way overweight. There are still nearly three months until training camp begins and four months until the season starts. That's almost an eternity in the NFL. This is the time of year to be optimistic and assume your team has a chance to win the Super Bowl. Trust me, reality awaits in just a few months.