OXNARD, Calif. – Sunday was the first time DeMarcus Lawrence has spoken publicly since he learned he'd be suspended the first four games of the 2016 season.
It might be the first time he's spoken to reporters, but he said he's covered his bases with the people who matter – his teammates and those within the Cowboys organization.
"I apologized to the team, the Jones Family, the organization – they know how sincerely sorry I am for my mistake," Lawrence said. "But it's just about moving forward from now on -- the focus is on this season and getting back after those four games."
Lawrence was suspended back in April for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, resulting in a four-game ban that will keep him off the field until Oct. 9. The disappointment of that news wasn't lost on Lawrence, who said he took time during OTAs to apologize personally.
"With times like this – hard times come through your life. You've got to learn to stand up and be a man about your mistakes," he said. "I did that. I stood up as a man, talked to my teammates – and they understand how sorry I am."
Given that he led the defense with eight sacks last season, the loss of Lawrence is bad enough. But that suspension, coupled with the same penalty to Randy Gregory, has the Cowboys preparing for the season without either of their most talented defensive ends.
With Gregory currently absent from training camp, it leaves Lawrence with the challenge of not only preparing himself for the coming season, but also helping to develop the Cowboys' young pass rushers.
"I've just got to come out here and approach each day working hard – making sure the young guys are ready to step up and take over their role," he said. "Just coming out here, trying to focus on my technique and make sure I'm ready and in shape when I get back, and just making sure the young guys are ready."
To hear it from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, Lawrence will have plenty of opportunities to get himself ready, as well. The third-year veteran is allowed to partake in all training camp practices, and he'll be available for all preseason games – where the coaching staff plans to make use of him.
"He's going to have a healthy next few weeks. We're going to make sure that he lays a great foundation for himself, and I know he's determined to do that," Garrett said.
Even if it's short-lived, it should be nice for Lawrence to get back to football. His offseason back surgery limited him throughout OTAs, so it's been eight months since he's played a legitimate snap. He said Sunday that his back is fine, and he's ready to begin the business of putting the suspension behind him.
"Really, I learned my priorities," he said. "You know what you've got to do, and you know you've got to let everybody know. I just didn't follow through with that. I know what to put first from now on."
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