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After suspension saga, Dez Bryant looks toward NFL

EDITOR'S NOTE — This is the first installment of a periodic diary-style story from Dez Bryant that will move in the weeks leading up to the April 22 draft.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Dez Bryant wants people to remember that he is a play-making receiver who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated after Oklahoma State beat Georgia in last season's opener.

He is, however, painfully aware that many people remember him as the guy who he lied to the NCAA when asked about his relationship with former NFL star Deion Sanders and subsequently had to sit out the Cowboys' final 10 games of the season after being suspended.

"I'm the type of person, I love to make people smile," he said. "I don't want people to get the wrong idea about me. ... Dez Bryant is a good person, down to earth, very humble, very passionate for the game."

Bryant has apologized for the incident and has spent the last three months preparing for the NFL draft, where he is expected to be picked in the first round on April 22. And he can't wait.

Bryant started a long road of preparing for the draft by spending a week training in Tampa, Fla., in November, and another week in December. He took a break, but resumed workouts in January to get ready for the NFL combine. Then he injured a hamstring — "All I did was just tweak it," he said — and skipped the high-profile workouts in Indianapolis.

He's since resumed training in New Orleans, working every day for three to four hours at a time "like it's the offseason. I like the hard workouts, being pushed during the workouts. We do a lot of aggressive things."

But he's still not performed for the people whose opinion counts the most toward his professional future — NFL scouts.

Oklahoma State held its pro day for scouts on March 10, but Bryant skipped it, citing the hamstring injury. He said he'd hold his own workout in his hometown of Lufkin, Texas, next week — a decision didn't sit well with at least one scout.

"I knew he wasn't going to be here, but they have other players here other than Dez Bryant," Pittsburgh Steelers scout Joe Greene said. "I'm sure he's realizing that the show keeps going on without him."

Greene went on to say he wouldn't be attending Bryant's workout: "I haven't been to Lufkin in all of my years in Texas, and I don't plan to go to Lufkin any time soon."

Told of Greene's comments, Bryant replied that "there's nothing I can say about that. If they don't want to see me work out, they don't have to."

But Bryant also defended his decision to hold off working out for scouts until March 30.

"I just needed to be 100 percent for sure," he said. "The scouts haven't seen me in a long time. Whenever they do see me, I want to be ready to go."

Bryant has heard the whispers that he delayed the workouts because he's out of shape or that his troubles with the NCAA might suggest future problems. The 6-foot-2 Bryant says he's at 220 pounds — he was at 225 at the combine — and maintains that he simply made a mistake in his dealings with the NCAA, and "it's all about how you handle the mistakes."

His Oklahoma State teammates have his back.

"I really don't pay attention to the negative things," said offensive tackle Russell Okung, who, like Bryant, is expected to be a first-round draft pick. "He's a great teammate. He's always been here for us and I love him to death."

Added quarterback Zac Robinson: "It's unfortunate to hear. Anybody that knows Dez knows that he's a great kid. I think he's probably matured a lot from it and learned a lot from it. He's a great football player. I'd take him on my team any day. He makes plays and he loves the game of football. Some team is going to find out — there's a bunch out there that want him — but they're going to be lucky to have Dez."

Bryant finished with 147 catches for 2,425 yards and 29 touchdowns in 28 career games for the Cowboys. He had 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and 19 TDs in his sophomore year, when he was a Biletnikoff Award finalist. But he played in only three games since the end of the 2008 season, so next week's workout figures to loom large as NFL teams form their opinions of him.

"It's a lot of pressure," he said. "I've really only got one shot unless teams want to do a private workout. But it's also an advantage, because I've got time to train and give it my all on the 30th."

So far, Bryant said only one team — the Dallas Cowboys — has scheduled him for a private workout. Bryant thinks that will change.

"I'm just ready to go out there and play football again," he said. "Whoever drafts me, I want them to know what they spend is worth every bit of it. I want to get on the field early because I can make a difference."

Bryant watched from the sidelines as Oklahoma State's dreams of a Big 12 Conference title and Bowl Championship Series appearance dissolved into a 9-4 season that ended with a Cotton Bowl loss. But it's over and done with, he said.

"Lots of things happened," Bryant said. "I am past that. I got over it. I didn't get depressed on myself. We all know what happened. I felt like my (mistake) was minor. I was man enough to come back and tell the truth. But it's life.

"I'm ready to get on with life."