Josh Brent moved closer to returning to the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday when the NFL announced it has conditionally reinstated the defensive tackle.
Brent will not be eligible to play until at least Week 11, earning a suspension of 10 games without pay for his drunk-driving manslaughter conviction. He can begin attending team meetings in Week 7 and begin practicing in Week 9, as long as he adheres to conditions imposed by the league.
Brent has five days to appeal, and Brent’s agent, Peter Schaffer, said Tuesday night that they are “exploring all options.”
Brent, 26, last played in a game on Dec. 2, 2012. The next game he could play is Nov. 23, after the Cowboys’ bye week, meaning he will have missed 30 regular-season games.
Brent was driving drunk in the early morning hours of Dec. 8, 2012, when he crashed his car and killed teammate Jerry Brown. He retired last season while awaiting trial and was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years probation on Jan. 24, 2014.
Brent was released from jail on June 15 to finish the remainder of his sentence in a substance-abuse center. He completed the rehab portion of the sentence in July and immediately filed papers to resume his NFL career.
Brent met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Aug 7.
The NFL’s decision Tuesday paves the way for Brent to become the third player to return to the NFL after being convicted of an alcohol-related death, joining Leonard Little and Donte Stallworth.
But the league laid out conditions for Brent’s full reinstatement. Among them:
• He must fully comply with any evaluation, treatment or counseling required by medical or other professionals assigned to him.
• He must fully comply with the requirements set forth by the courts regarding his probation, testing, and monitoring.
• He must have no further adverse involvement with law enforcement.
The NFL warned that “any prohibited alcohol-related conduct will likely result in an immediate suspension and potential banishment from the NFL.”
The Cowboys, with the blessing of Brown’s family, have supported Brent throughout the process. Owner Jerry Jones has maintained all along he would welcome back Brent if the defensive tackle was cleared to play again.
Jones said last week he believes Brent is a changed – and better – man. Jones admitted, though, he has no idea what kind of football player Brent will be upon his return, considering the time Brent has spent away from the game.
The Cowboys made Brent a seventh-round pick in the 2010 supplemental draft, and he played 39 games, with five starts, in three seasons. Brent has 31 career tackles and 1.5 sacks.