Let’s get one thing straight.
The Dallas Cowboys are not the Salvation Army.
They are not running a charity and into giving people second chances and taking risks on troubled players simply out of the goodness of their heart.
The Cowboys are in the business of winning games and the help they offer is in direct proportion to how a player can impact their success.
That has always been the case for owner Jerry Jones dating to his days with Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin (drug conviction), Hall of Fame defensive end Charles Haley and defensive tackle Leon Lett (failed drug tests) on the Super Bowl teams of the 1990s.
It’s the same case now with the addition of defensive end Greg Hardy (domestic violence charge) and Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, who dropped into the Cowboys’ lap in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft because of a failed drug test and mental health issues.
For Jones, it’s a full-time commitment that includes long hours.
“I want to help,” Jones said. “But where is it that you make it a part of your day’s work is when you are president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys and you have an opportunity if you can help the individual to really help us as a football team when that happens.
“I have never had a problem with any of the ones I have signed on to be a good associate with and be a good team member with because of how significant they are to everybody’s success around here.”
Everybody in the Cowboys’ organization are on board with that philosophy, including coach Jason Garrett and his right-kind-of-guy mantra.
Garrett said the things that stood out for Hardy, who is facing a 10-game suspension from the NFL, and Gregory, who will begin his NFL career in the substance abuse program, is that they play high-impact, need positions.
The Cowboys had 28 sacks last year to rank 28th in the league. Although Dez Bryant’s non-catch is seen by many as the difference in the NFL Divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys’ chance to win was limited because of an inability to put pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
That’s where Hardy and Gregory come in.
Garrett said they were comfortable in helping them with the off-the-field issues because both have high character on the field in terms of effort and love for the game.
“One of the things that is most impressive about him [Gregory] is that he just never quits. He’s just absolutely got a you-can’t-stop-me-attitude about it and he will keep those feet, he will keep everything moving. That probably, couple that with real unique physical talent, that’s rare. He has rare ability,” Jones said.
Gregory came in wanting assistance from the Cowboys in overcoming his substance abuse and life-coping issues.
“It’s not so much about that, it’s about bad decision-making,” Gregory said on controlling his problem with marijuana. “It’s about maturing. I feel like this staff can help me get to a whole new level with that.”
Still, Jones had to make sure that Gregory was committed before drafting him.
“It takes some individuals that really love football to let that motivate them to change these kinds of habits we are talking about,” Jones said. “You’ve really got to love football and want to be in the NFL. There is no question in my mind he is very aware and wants to do better and wants help.”
The Cowboys will provide round-the-clock assistance for Gregory and possibly an accountability partner. It’s nothing they haven’t done with other players before, though each situation is different.
Jones has gone as far as to help former cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones pay his bills and has acknowledged that he has co-signed on checks for Bryant.
Jones even recalled once contacting more than 150 creditors of a former player, negotiating a deal for them to take 30 cents on the dollar to close the accounts as paid as agreed.
“It’s for all the right reasons,” Jones said. “We’re together. We’re on a team. We work together and you want to help anybody that you can.
“My hands are tied if the player just says, ‘I’d rather not have Mr. Jones in my stuff.’ I don’t think that’s smart.”
Bryant has been a success story for the Cowboys. Adam Jones, who has played in Cincinnati the past five years, revived his career, even though it didn’t work out in Dallas.
Adam Jones still sends Jerry Jones’ secretary, Marylyn Love, Christmas cards for all the work she did for him.
The Cowboys are hoping for similar success with Gregory.
“I know I made a mistake,” Gregory said. “I know there is only so much I can say. Talk is cheap sometimes. I really want to show these guys what I can do and I am really serious about what I say. I gave that staff my word plenty of times, and I really feel like they believe me.”
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760