Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys' David Irving suspended four games for substance abuse

Defensive tackle David Irving, who missed the past four games with a high ankle sprain, is away from the Dallas Cowboys again dealing with personal issues.
Defensive tackle David Irving, who missed the past four games with a high ankle sprain, is away from the Dallas Cowboys again dealing with personal issues. Special to the Star-Telegram

The Dallas Cowboys will begin another year with defensive tackle David Irving on the suspended list.

Irving has violated the NFL's substance-abuse policy, a league spokesman announced, and will serve a four-game suspension to open the season.

It marks the second consecutive season Irving is on the suspended list to start the season. He missed the first four games last season for violating the league's performance enhancing drugs policy.

Barring Irving winning an appeal, he won't be eligible to return until the Oct. 7 game at Houston. Irving is eligible to participate in training camp and preseason games before the regular-season opener Sept. 9 at Carolina.

The suspension will cost Irving approximately $685,000. He forfeited $154,000 because of his suspension last season.

This has been a trend for the Cowboys' defensive players of late. They've had at least one starter suspended to start the season in each of the last four years.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Orlando Scandrick, Rolando McClain, Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory have also served suspensions since 2015.

Irving's absence leaves a hole in the Cowboys' D-line. This is a guy who had seven sacks in eight games last season.

When Irving wasn't available because of suspension or injury last season, the Cowboys used Maliek Collins in the under tackle spot. The Cowboys also acquired Jihad Ward during this year's NFL Draft.

Irving, who signed a one-year, $2.91 million tender as a restricted free agent this offseason, is coming off a season in which he was credited with 12 tackles, seven sacks, three tackles for loss, 19 QB pressures and six passes defensed.

The seven sacks were second-most on the team even though Irving played in just eight games (suspended the first four and missed the last four with a concussion).

Irving, 24, has been in the headlines for wrong reasons so far this offseason. He's been sporadic attending the Cowboys' offseason program, drawing the ire of coaches and teammates.

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli didn't want to speculate about Irving reaching his full potential when asked earlier this offseason, saying he is usually "too optimistic."

But, Marinelli said, "Everything I do is with guidance when you’re dealing with men. It’s about man-building, give them guidance and go. But the man’s got to grab it and go."

Linebacker Sean Lee also had pointed words when asked about Irving in minicamp, saying Irving has to show up more often if he wants to make the desired impact on the team.

"It's a shared sacrifice, all of us working together as a team," Lee said. "It's a big deal for all of us. He needs to be here on a more consistent basis.

"He can be a huge part of this team if he wants to be, but he's got to show that commitment."

He expounded on his off-field issues Thursday, which have included a custody battle with his ex-girlfriend over their daughter. The ex-girlfriend also accused Irving of domestic violence before recanting her story.

"I’ve been through a lot," Irving said Thursday. "I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I got my daughter. It’s just me and her. That means it’s no stress really. Have a good relaxing day with the person that loves me the most, the person I love the most. It’s going to be good."

Dallas Cowboys RB coach Gary Brown is preparing Ezekiel Elliott to face stacked boxes with unproven receivers on the roster. Elliott is coming off a season in which he rushed for 983 yards.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott addressed the sloppy practices in minicamp with drops and errant throws. He says the offense isn't where it needs to be yet.