Defensive end Randy Gregory, one of the hardest of all the hard luck Cowboys, is back, just in time for training camp. The NFL announced Tuesday that Gregory, suspended for all but two games of the Cowboys' 2016 and 2017 seasons, is eligible to join the Cowboys at the team's training camp in Oxnard, California, and participate in "meetings, conditioning work and similar activities." Once Gregory makes and confirms clinical arrangements with the NFL in Dallas, he will be able to participate in all team activities, including practices and games.
The suspensions that have dogged the beginning of Gregory's career all stem from marijuana use, the same thing that allowed the Cowboys to draft him in the first place.
By the time the 2015 draft rolled around, Gregory had already failed an NFL drug test, adding to the two tests he failed at Nebraska in 2014. Gregory maintained then, as he does now, that he used marijuana in order to cope with crippling anxiety.
Teams drafting in the first round viewed Gregory as too big of a risk, passing on a player many believed to be a top-10 talent.
Gregory flashed promise in 2015, recording three sacks in the preseason and three quarterback pressures while playing fewer than 20 snaps in the season opener against the Giants, before suffering a high ankle sprain that limited his explosiveness for the rest of the season.
Gregory failed his second NFL cannabis test during his rookie offseason. The league gave him a four-game ban, but before he could begin serving the suspension in September 2016, Gregory failed another test. The league tacked on 10 more games. After his third failed test, Gregory entered rehab, but he left before completing his program, missing another drug test in the process.
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Because the NFL views missed tests the same as positive tests, the league suspended Gregory for the entire 2017 season. (He participated in the Cowboys' last two 2016 regular season games as he appealed the yearlong ban.)
Despite Gregory's extended absence, his undeniable talent as a pass rusher has the Cowboys' coaching staff excited about his return.
"He’s been off for a long time. He’s talented, no question. He’s a great guy and he’s smart. But the No. 1 thing we’ve got to do is just groove him back in, groove him back in before I start setting standards for him and goals," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Marinelli told reporters at the Cowboys' June mini-camp in Frisco. "Let’s just get him in a stance, start teaching him the game of football. Because like I say, if you don’t play for three or four months — a year, it’s not the same, the timing. So I’m just excited to get a chance to work with him again."