When Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving initially signed his $2.91 million restricted free agent tender and was present for the first day of the off-season, it appeared to be a sign of progress.
Was Irving finally ready to put all the questions about his lack of focus and commitment behind him, setting the stage for a big season in 2018?
Unrestricted free agency and a lucrative contract as one of the top tackles on the market should have been incentive enough.
Well, that was before he sporadically showed up for the remaining portions of the off-season program and has been held out of OTAs to get in shape, according to Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.
That was also before he was accused of domestic violence by a former girlfriend, who has since recanted. The incident prompted a Frisco police investigation.
But that's allegedly over.
The Cowboys are now in their third week of OTAs. Not only is Irving still not on the field, he has largely not been around.
According to a source, Irving has been around the Cowboys “getting himself in shape” only just a “couple of times” since the start of OTAs.
Thus Irving remains an enigma of sorts for the Cowboys.
No one is panicking, because OTAs are “voluntary” workouts. But it's also duly noted that everyone else on the roster is there, whether they are participating or not.
His teammates remain supportive. They know he has a different, albeit mercurial, personality. But they are understandably perplexed.
“David is David,” defensive end Tyrone Crawford said. ”Everybody knows David. That’s the dinosaur right there. We are trying to figure him out, too, and get him right. He is too big of a talent not to be on the field.”
While the coaches and front office staff are continually frustrated with Irving, the players are trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, because they know when he is around and he is right, he is one of the best at what he does.
Remember, Irving had seven sacks in eight games last year. But also remember, he played in only eight games, missing the first four due to an NFL suspension for taking a banned substance. He missed the last four because of a concussion.
It all has the Cowboys wondering whether he is willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to maximize his enormous potential.
"That's what they thought about David last year [when he was suspended] as well," said Crawford when asked whether Irving’s absence was hurting him. "He came back in shape and some of the best shape of his life, I guess, according to him. It showed. I don’t know how many sacks, seven in eight games? He gets himself to where he needs to be. We are lucky to have him. We need to get everything right with him and he needs to work on that himself. Once that is all figured out, he will be good to go.”
Will Irving ever figure it all out?
That’s the big question.
For now, the Cowboys will try to answer the small question.
Will Irving show up and be ready to participate in the mandatory minicamp set for June 12-14?
Big man, big enigma.
Clarence E. Hill Jr.: @clarencehilljr