Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory didn’t record a sack as a rookie and hasn’t played in a game in almost a year. But everyone in the locker room understands the type of talent he possesses and what his return could mean to bolster the pass rush down the stretch.
“Oh, man, he’s been looking real good,” defensive end Tyrone Crawford said. “He’s looking real fast and definitely excited to get him out there against a team [the Detroit Lions on Monday night] that I feel he’ll actually rush good against. I’m excited, man.
“The young bull’s back.”
Gregory has been serving a 14-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy multiple times. He opened the season with a four-game suspension and had an additional 10 games tacked on in late September for violating the policy again.
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At that time, the NFL announced that Gregory would be eligible to return to the active roster on Dec. 19. There had been some thought that Gregory could return to practice two weeks ago, but the league denied that because he was not compliant.
But Gregory is set to return to practice this week and owner Jerry Jones has said multiple times that Gregory would play on Monday.
Jones mentioned the impact Charles Haley had in Super Bowl XXX after being sidelined six weeks following back surgery. While Jones admitted Gregory is not comparable to Haley in terms of track record, Gregory still has a chance to make a positive impact.
His teammates certainly believe so, too.
“He’s a beast. Randy is a beast,” defensive end David Irving said. “Heck, we could use him on the edge, so I’m excited to see my boy come back.”
The Cowboys have combined for 30 sacks on the season, one shy of matching their total from a year ago (31). They are tied for 17th in the league and understand what a sustained pass rush could mean in a playoff run.
Gregory has a chance to bolster it.
Defensive tackle Maliek Collins played two seasons with Gregory at Nebraska, and had his best season in Gregory’s final one in 2014. Collins had 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss that year, while Gregory had seven sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.
“He was very versatile and we had great chemistry,” Collins said. “It means a lot to have him back, man. He can contribute. … I’m sure he’ll be ready to go.”