Randy Gregory is practicing with the Cowboys this week, and that might the weirdest story out of Frisco in a season full of them.
Beyond question, Gregory is a fantastic pass rusher. Coming out of Nebraska, Gregory might have been the best pure pass rusher in the 2015 NFL Draft. He's rangy, speedy and has rush moves that stand out on a field full of professionals. There is a reason, however, that Gregory fell into the Cowboys' lap in the second round.
By the time the 2015 draft rolled around in April, 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.
Whatever the reason, 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.
During his first season with the Cowboys, Gregory flashed promise, recording three sacks in the preseason and three quarterback pressures in under 20 snaps during the season opener against the Giants, before suffering a high ankle sprain that would limit his explosiveness over the rest of the season. Gregory continued piling up failed drug tests as well.
For his second failed pot test, the NFL gave Gregory a four-game suspension. But before he could begin serving that ban in September, Gregory failed another test, and the league tacked on 10 more games. After his third failed test, Gregory entered rehab but left before completing his program, missing another drug test in the process.
Because the NFL views missed tests the same as positive tests, Gregory faces up to a one-year ban for his latest misstep.
Gregory has appealed that latest suspension, leading to an interesting situation. He's now 14 games into the Cowboys regular season, eligible to play for the first time in 2016. He's going to get his chance, too, because the Cowboys are in desperate need of pass rushers.
Despite Gregory's first practice this year coming on Thursday, Jerry Jones said Tuesday that Gregory is likely to be thrown into the fire the night after Christmas against the Lions.
"We need him. We want him. We'll start his official padded work, or not necessarily even padded but his work with the team out there Thursday," Jones said during his weekly radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan, "He'll get those three practices in. Yeah, we anticipate seeing him in a game."
On Monday at The Star in Frisco, Jones compared Gregory's potential comeback to Hall of Fame defensive end Charles Haley's return from injury in 1995. That year, Haley went down with a ruptured disc in his back during week 10, but returned six weeks after surgery to make a huge impact on the Cowboys' Super Bowl XXX win over the Steelers.
"Charles Haley came in and made three plays, and I bet he hadn't played a total of 20 in a year almost, and ... helped us win the Super Bowl," Jones said. "But that's Charles Haley, and I know Charles Haley and Gregory's no Charles Haley. But the whole point is that he does have some unique skills. That's why we drafted him. We'd like to take advantage of some of those."
However big Gregory's impact on the Cowboys' last two regular season games and the playoffs, there is a non-zero chance it will be his last for the Cowboys. Should he lose his ongoing appeal against his latest suspension, the earliest he could possibly return would be the 2018 season opener, and by that point, the Cowboys may have moved on.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.