Gil LeBreton

Dallas Cowboys’ suspensions are not killing; it’s business as usual

With the news that the NFL has suspended David Irving for using performance-enhancing substances, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves faced with the loss of a likely defensive starter for at least the season’s first month.

Sigh. Again?

Though this is Irving’s first public breach of the NFL rule book, it’s certainly not the Cowboys’ first rodeo.

Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain, Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence — all expected to be starters on defense — were suspended at various times over the past two seasons. Gregory’s latest transgression (chronic pot use) will cost him the entire 2017 season, if not his NFL career.

If anyone knows the drill, therefore, it’s defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Irving, one of the team’s most pleasant surprises a year ago, will have to be replaced.

Which may explain why 17 players are listed as defensive linemen on the 90-man roster as the Cowboys prepare to leave for training camp in three weeks.

Strength in numbers? Maybe. A couple of solid No. 1s would surely make Marinelli smile.

Irving will be allowed to report to camp and participate in all preseason practices and games, but the earliest he can play in the regular season is Oct. 8 against Green Bay.

Sigh. But again the coaches know the drill.

Irving’s loss will mean closer scrutiny on defenders who need it most. Lawrence, for one. Cedric Thornton and rookie Taco Charlton, to name two others.

Lawrence will enter camp as the likely starter at left defensive end. Between his four-game suspension in 2016 and a second back surgery that caused him to be miss off-season work, you have to wonder whether Lawrence hit the ground running in Oxnard.

Thornton, at the same time, has to finally show why the Cowboys signed him to a four-year, $18 million free agent contract. His free agent contribution a year ago: zero games started.

Charlton, meanwhile, comes in with high expectations attached as the team’s No. 1 draft choice, and he should benefit from the increased playing time.

Suspensions for some mean opportunities for others. The Cowboys have no other reasonable way to look at the loss of Irving.

The rest of the NFL world probably rolled their eyes at the news. Another Cowboy in trouble.

Irving had a couple of incidents in college, which caused him to be dismissed from the team at Iowa State, but his issues seem minuscule when compared to Hardy’s and McClain’s.

A domestic abuse incident at Iowa State ended with charges against Irving being dropped. He then was caught on camera — Irving stands 6-7, 273 pounds — carrying away a stop sign after Iowa State’s VEISHEA party week turned rowdy.

Like concussions and knee injuries, the NFL is always going to have a problem with PEDs. Players are always going to look for an edge. Irving reportedly tested positive for a substance found in an over-the-counter supplement. Players are still responsible, even if the supplement label’s ingredients are sketchy.

With Irving missing September, the best guess for the Cowboys’ starting defensive line would be Lawrence at left end, Tyrone Crawford at left tackle, Charlton at right end and Maliek Collins at right tackle. Benson Mayowa, Charles Tapper and Demontre Moore could all have a say in that.

Marinelli will figure it out. For the Cowboys, it’s business as usual.

And it’s why 17 defensive linemen will be in training camp.

Gil LeBreton: @gilebreton

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