OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee fired back at free agent receiver Dez Bryant on Friday after his former teammate called him a “snake” on Twitter while suggesting Lee played a role in the club’s decision to release its career leader in touchdown catches.
The exchange was prompted by a radio station’s tweet from an interview with executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones. He suggested that quarterback Dak Prescott felt pressure to get the ball to Bryant.
“First thing, to say that I can get anybody off the team and have any input on a roster is absurd,” Lee said. “The second thing, I love Dez and I want the best for him.
“You know, to be honest, we did butt heads, because I wanted Dez to be more accountable to this team and his teammates. To be honest with you, a lot of the team felt that way. I think he needs to look at himself and hold himself accountable.”
In an expletive-laden response to the radio station’s tweet, Bryant criticized the team’s play-calling. A second tweet suggested “my brother snake Lee I mean Sean Lee” and center Travis Frederick had a hand in the decision to release Bryant.
Frederick said it wasn’t reasonable to think a fifth-year player, which he is, could wield influence on roster decisions.
“It’s certainly disappointing,” Frederick said. “It’s disappointing when you hear guys turn against each other, but I think in the end Dez was a great teammate of mine and I’d still consider him a friend.”
The radio station’s original tweet didn’t include all of Jones’ quote, leaving out a portion that made a reference to tight end Jason Witten. The club’s leader in catches and games retired after 15 seasons to go into broadcasting. The station sent a subsequent tweet with the portion about Witten.
“He’s gotta trust the system, which at times last year, there was pressure, with Dez in his ear and to some degree Jason in his ear,” Jones said in the radio interview. “Those great players want the ball.”
Later, Jones said he didn’t intend to criticize Bryant.
“You got great players like Dez and Witten, they want the ball,” Jones said at Cowboys camp. “Everybody sees it. It’s on every team. They let the quarterback know that sometimes. In no way was it intended to be negative.”
Jones wouldn’t discuss whether the front office solicited the opinions of players before releasing Bryant in April. Owner Jerry Jones said then, “We arrived at this crossroad collectively with input from several voices within the organization.”
The owner’s comments prompted a reply on twitter from Bryant, who wrote that was “something he already knew.” In interviews later that day, Bryant suggested that team captains and “Garrett guys,” in reference to coach Jason Garrett, played a role in his release.
After seeing reports of Lee’s response Friday, Bryant wrote on Twitter, “he sat right across from me.. everything he said he could have addressed with me...sounds like a back stabber to me.”
Bryant’s release came after three sub-par seasons following the $70, five-year contract he signed after his only All-Pro season in 2014. Cleveland has shown interest in signing him in recent days.
Stephen Jones said he believes Bryant knows the Cowboys still have positive feelings for the three-time Pro Bowl player. Bryant’s 73 touchdowns are two more than Hall of Famer Bob Hayes.
“Obviously these are tough times in terms how this has turned out,” Stephen Jones said. “Dez is thinking about his future and certainly not easy on anybody. No one knows more about what I think of Dez than me.”
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