Joseph Randle, the guy who began 2015 as the Dallas Cowboys' starting running back, might never play another down for the team, following reports from the NFL that the former Oklahoma State player is facing league discipline. The action stems from an incident at a Wichita hotel in February that ended with Randle cited for marijuana possession and accused of, but not charged with, threatening his ex-girlfriend with a gun. Randle skipped out on a rehabilitation session with Cowboys personnel and did not return to the team. Head Coach Jason Garrett would only say Thursday that Randle's absence was to deal with a personal matter and that the running back would not be playing Sunday against the Seahawks because of an injury.
When asked if Randle would continue to be a Cowboys player, Garrett said the Cowboys and Randle were just trying to "get through Thursday." If this week is indeed the end for Randle in Dallas, it marks the completion of a run with the Cowboys that saw flashes of talent along with sometimes embarrassing and frequently dumbfounding moments.
Randle was drafted in the fifth round in 2013 to back up DeMarco Murray. During Murray's historic 2014 season, Randle was given sporadic touches, but he made one of the most important runs of the season during the Cowboys Week 6 win over the Seahawks. When he got his hands on the ball, Randle made it look like it should happen more often, showing speed and elusiveness.
Still, even before the incident at the hotel, Randle couldn't seem to stop himself from getting in trouble. On October 13, 2014, the day after the game against the Seahawks, he was arrested at Stonebriar Mall in Frisco. Randle was charged with stealing underwear and a tester bottle of cologne — leading to obvious speculation about why he might have snatched those particular items — and eventually accepted deferred adjudication. He hadn't paid for the goods, he told police, because he didn't want to take the time to do it. Randle was fined one game check, about $29,500, but ended up getting an endorsement deal to cover his shortfall.
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The Cowboys decision to allow Murray to depart in the off-season for a big-money contract with the Eagles mostly came down to their faith in an offensive line that many felt was the league's best, but the team had faith in Randle, too. Rather than making a splash for a big-name back, the team signed Raiders castoff Darren McFadden to make 10-15 carries a game and seemed content heading into 2015 with Randle as their starting running back.
Randle did not run for 90 yards in any of the Cowboys' first six games and consistently failed to perform in the second half of games. Excepting three first-half touchdowns against the Falcons on September 27, his near-fumble that turned into a score against the Saints the next week was his only touchdown. The Cowboys' best rushing performance of the season came last Sunday when, thanks to Randle's injury, McFadden ended up taking the bulk of the carries and running for more than 100 yards.
Randle's potential quick exit stands in stark contrast to the status of Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy. Hardy, signed to a one-year, incentive-laden contract after missing nearly all of 2014 because he was involved in a disturbing domestic violence incident of his own in North Carolina, screamed at teammates and pushed a coach on the sideline during last week's game against the Giants. Afterward, team owner Jerry Jones called Hardy a leader and suggested the Cowboys would try to sign him to an extension. Hardy, coincidentally, has performed well in the two 2015 games he has played following his return from suspension.