Early morning on January 5, the NFL released its verdict on an appeal made by Cowboys’ defensive end Randy Gregory’s suspension. Gregory initially failed a drug test during the NFL Combine before the 2015 Draft, resulting in a 4-game suspension. After that, Gregory failed another drug test, which led to a 10-game suspension this season, before it was extended to a 14-game suspension. Gregory made his return to the Cowboys in Week 16, and had his best game of his career in Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
When the Cowboys initially drafted Randy Gregory in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, they acknowledged the risks they were taking with Gregory and his past of issues with marijuana. Nonetheless, the Cowboys gifted Gregory with the number 94, hoping he could carry on Charles Haley and DeMarcus Ware’s legacy at DE. Unfortunately, through Gregory’s 14-game career, he’s only registered one sack, coming in Week 17 of the 2016 season.
Reportedly, the drug test was administered to Gregory whilst he was in rehab, recovering from his “addiction,” and he missed the test when he left for the weekend without being notified of the test. The NFL counts a missed drug test as a failed drug test, and this led to them administering a 365-day suspension back in November. This last failed test now brings Gregory’s failed test total to 5 since the NFL Combine two years ago.
Gregory chose to appeal the test on the basis he wasn’t told he was taking a test. Today, the NFL proved once again how poorly it handles illicit substances, by denying Gregory of his appeal, and starting his suspension today. In doing so, Gregory isn’t allowed to play in any of the 2017 playoff games, and isn’t able to return until the 2018 playoffs. He isn’t allowed to enter the Star or participate in any official team activities.
Although reasoning for Gregory’s issues have been unclear, it has been alleged that the drug helps him to cover emotional issues, something most would view as more important than football. Typically I’m not one to support a player that breaks rules for the NFL, but in this case the kid needs help, and the NFL appears to want to do everything it can to make his situation worse.
With Gregory being unable to play in 18 of his 32 available career games so far, this puts a severe weight on the Cowboys. Not only do they essentially lose a second round draft pick, they lose a valuable member of their weakest group (edge rushers), and they lose the ability to work with Gregory and groom him into the defense, turning him into the beast that they hoped he would be. Gregory loses access to team workouts, and thus must rely on his own self-discipline to stay in shape and work on drills to get him back in playing form by next January.
On top of that, the Cowboys released DE Zach Moore in order to make space for Gregory returning to the roster. Now with Moore cut and Gregory suspended, the Cowboys essentially lost two key parts to Rod Marinelli’s defensive lineman rotation.
Since Gregory was drafted in 2015, the Cowboys have totaled 67 sacks in two complete seasons, putting them near the bottom in sack totals.
Hopefully, the NFL will learn to improve on its stance on marijuana use, or the Cowboys can find a way to straighten out one of the most promising defensive end prospects the NFL has seen in recent years.