The Dallas Cowboys are allowing receiver Dez Bryant to decide whether to have season-ending surgery on his injured left index finger, but stating that fact publicly has put Bryant in a lose-lose situation.
By playing through the injury, Bryant is risking long-term and irreversible damage to the finger. But without a doctor saying he can't play, the 24-year-old, for better or worse, will likely play this Sunday.
Just take Bryant's word for it (via NFL.com).
"It would take more than this to take me out," Bryant told Scout.com. "No way. They'd have to break my leg to keep me out."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told KRLD-FM Tuesday (via ESPN) that Bryant would be the decision-maker on the injury and treatment:
I know he wants to play. Dez will be the ultimate decision-maker on surgery or playing with some kind of padding...Make no mistake about it. Dez is champing at the bit and wants to take the route of playing.
ESPN also confirmed through sources that, unless a doctor ruled otherwise, Bryant would play Sunday.
"Unless the doctors say he medically can't do it, Dez is going to play," the source told ESPN.
A league source told ESPN that tolerating the pain wasn't an issue, but playing through the injury could cause Bryant difficulty in terms of flexibility in the finger for the rest of his career:
There is significant swelling in Bryant's finger and he must understand that if he plays, the finger might be compromised for the remainder of his career in terms of flexibility -- a significant issue for a wide receiver.
Therein lies the problem for Bryant.
The comments from Jones make it known to the public that Bryant would be able to play through the fracture by using padding or a splint to help support the injury. Deciding to have the surgery—which, at least medically, could be a better decision—would not go over well, especially with the Cowboys right in the thick of the NFC East and wild-card races.
Losing Bryant for the final stretch would be a major blow to any postseason chances. He has touchdowns in each of the last five games, plus four outings with at least 80 receiving yards.
Bryant has already shown that he can play through the injury, too. After leaving for five plays in obvious pain, Bryant returned and caught a 27-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that helped the Cowboys come back from a nine-point deficit and beat the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bryant's best career decision is probably fixing the finger now and preventing all risk for career-altering damage.
Yet with all the information on the table, Bryant doesn't really have that choice.
Shutting it down isn't really an option now that the public knows he has the option to play, if cleared by doctors. While not exactly fair, it's the reality Bryant is currently faced with.
As it stands, Bryant will likely put off surgery until the offseason and play Sunday.