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Back to Football: Randy Gregory suspension saga could finally be over

Defensive end Randy Gregory is nearing a return to the Dallas Cowboys after a conditional reinstatement by the NFL follows his 2019 suspension absence.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this July 28, 2018, file photo, Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory is shown during NFL football training camp in Oxnard, Calif. Gregory is trying to get his career back on track.(AP Photo/Gus Ruelas, File)

DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys weren't confident that they were going to have Randy Gregory for the 2019 season. Even though their words in public supported the former 2015 second-round pick, their actions over that offseason said otherwise.

To shore up their pass rush, the Cowboys acquired defensive end Robert Quinn from the Miami Dolphins. The former Pro Bowler was opportunistic playing opposite of DeMarcus Lawrence, ultimately leading the team with 11.5 sacks in 14 games.

During the "State of the Cowboys" annual training camp presser from a year ago in Oxnard, Calif., Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones remained optimistic that they would have Gregory's services at some point in 2019.

"I visited with Randy yesterday; had a good visit with him," Jones said. "I would hope, I want to be guarded in my comments here because Randy is suspended, but I do feel that he’s doing the things and it’s getting recognized by the decision-makers that he’s doing things to really improve and be a productive player in the NFL. I think that will not go unnoticed and could have it happen for him. I last year thought that Randy, that we all made about a C-plus with Randy. I say that because if you can get this thing right with him, get him right with the rules, get him right with the league, all of that, he’s got a bright future. As hard as he’s worked and as conscientious as he is, I think he’s got a chance to come in and make a big contribution."

Instead, Gregory was never allowed back into the league last season and the same verse was sung by Dallas this year. The Cowboys were hopeful, but they acted throughout the offseason like Gregory would again be denied another chance to perform. However, it looks like Gregory will get his shot in 2020 if all steps are properly taken.

According to the Dallas Morning News' Calvin Watkins, Gregory will have to undergo an acclimation period before he is ready to report for conditioning on Sept. 7. The NFL says Gregory will be allowed to practice starting Oct. 5 and will be eligible to play Oct. 25 at Washington.

While it appears that Gregory is reinstated, and he is, he will undergo one last shadowban by the league to ensure that he can stay on track. If Jones and the Cowboys are right, then nearly 12 calendar months later, Gregory should be able to provide the Cowboys with a formidable pass rush in the latter half of the schedule.

In 2018, Gregory collected 6.0 sacks, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in 14 games, one of which he started. While it wasn't enough to be considered a war daddy, the production was perfect as a complementary piece to Lawrence, especially one that had been out of football for a whole season to that point and only had 14 career games coming into the 2018 campaign.

Dallas already boasts a formidable pass rush with Lawrence, Everson Griffen, Aldon Smith, Dontari Poe, and possibly linebacker Jaylon Smith coming off the edge. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's philosophy is to put his best pass rushers on the field, regardless of position, and let them get after the quarterback. 

It’s been a year of wait and see but adding Gregory, even midway through the season, will give the Dallas pass rush another athletic, agile edge defender that could help them win the NFC East again. 

Do you think Randy Gregory will be able to make an impact for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.