The NFL has reinstated suspended Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory on a conditional basis and he is headed to training camp with the rest of the team on July 24.
The news came less than an hour after Gregory posted a winking emoji smiling face on his Twitter account.
Clearly, he had some good news to share after a long road back from being banished from the league in 2016 following repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Per the NFL in a press release, Gregory may join the Cowboys at training camp and participate in meetings, conditioning work, and similar activities.
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Once arrangements have been confirmed regarding Gregory’s clinical resources in Dallas, and subject to continued compliance with the terms of his reinstatement and all aspects of the Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse, per the collective bargaining agreement, he will be permitted to participate in all activities, including practices and games.
A ecstatic Gregory told former Cowboys scout Gil Brandt that he has been clean for more than a year. “Not many people get 2nd, 3rd and 4th chances. I plan to take advantage of mine,” said Brandt in a tweet regarding his conversation with Gregory.
This is a huge step in the right direction for Gregory, who has played in just 14 games since the Cowboys picked him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He played in 12 as a rookie. In 2016, he missed the first 14 games under NFL suspension, returned for two games at the end of the season before being suspended indefinitely Jan. 16, 2017.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been consistent in his desire to get Gregory back with the team because he is a good person and a talented player.
“He is really a good person. That goes a long way,” Jones said in March. “He is smart. That is redeeming. Is there a chance he could get this figured out and be accountable and responsible? There is. Oh, there is one other little thing, he is one helluva football player.”
Gregory has worked hard to get back in the league, spending more than six weeks in a drug and alcohol rehab program, passing all his drug tests and adhering to counseling as part of six-month intense rehab regimen.
Gregory officially applied for reinstatement last month with the hopes of the commissioner making a decision before the start of training camp, which begins July 24.
Now that his wish has been granted, it’s unclear how much Gregory can help the Cowboys in 2018 after so much time away from football.
But there is no question that being back with the Cowboys and around his teammates in a structured environment is considered best for him.
“I worry about the man,” said defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford, one of several Cowboys to write letters to the NFL on behalf of Gregory’s reinstatement last month. “I hope for his sake he can get back into the league and back around the guys in the locker room. This is his family. This where he needs to be.”
Gregory has been working with former Oakland Raiders defensive end Greg Townsend in hopes dusting some rust off his game in case he was cleared for camp.
Still, the Cowboys have plans on taking it slow with him in camp.
“I think the first [thing] with him, get him in a stance and get him going,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said during minicamp last month on how he would handle a reinstated Gregory. “He’s been off for a long time. He’s talented, no question. He’s a great guy and he’s smart. But the No. 1 thing we’ve got to do is just groove him back in, groove him back in before I start setting standards for him and goals. Let’s just get him in a stance, start teaching him the game of football. Because like I say, if you don’t play for three or four months – a year, it’s not the same, the timing. So I’m just excited to get a chance to work with him again.”
Said coach Jason Garrett: “I just think you try to find out where he is,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He has been here [in the past]. I think he understands how we want to do things. So it’s not like it’s a new guy who’s walking in the door. You use that history, but at the same time, you kind of get him caught up. You do make sure you emphasize the conditioning, the fundamentals, all the basic things of football that you really try to do with your team every year, and make sure whatever situation you put him in, he’s able to handle it physically.”
The Cowboys are as deep as they have been in a long time at defensive end. Gregory joins DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton, Kony Ealy, Charles Tapper and rookie Dorance Armstrong on the edge.