Randy Gregory walked off the field with the football. It wasn’t a sack that made the pass-rusher a star Thursday, but a punt return.
Coach Jason Garrett moved Thursday’s practice from 5 p.m. to 9:15 a.m. At the end, he told the offensive and defensive linemen to elect three players each to catch a punt.
If one of the six can catch a punt, Garrett said, the team was headed home a day early.
Gregory, a rookie defensive lineman, completed the task as the first one up.
“I’m going to keep it for a little bit,” Gregory said of the practice ball. “They didn’t faith in the rookies, especially the D-linemen. I had to step up, catch one for the team, send us back home. … The pressure was all on me. I guess I performed well.”
Gregory hadn’t fielded a punt since his freshman year in high school, but he was confident he could get the job done.
“Just at least get a hand on it,” Gregory said of the thought going through his head as he followed the flight of Chris Jones’ punt. “I didn’t want to overrun it or not go up to it far enough. I’ve done it before. It’s really not hard, but lost my footing there a little bit. Just trying to make sure I got under it. I did well.”
The Cowboys broke into celebration after Gregory secured the ball. The team charter was scheduled to land late Friday afternoon after a morning walk-through in Oxnard.
“It’ll be good to get everybody back home, sleeping in their own bed tonight,” Garrett said. “We’ll go into Valley Ranch tomorrow and have a regular day before the game schedule and then play Saturday night.”
The Cowboys host the Vikings in their first home preseason game.