IRVING, Texas– When the Cowboys drafted Randy Gregory in the second round last year, they knew there was a major risk involved, especially after he failed a drug test at the combine.
Nearly 15 months later, nothing that has transpired should be too surprising involving Gregory, who will serve a four-game suspension by the NFL to start the season for repeated violations of the league's substance abuse policy during his rookie season.
While the Cowboys know they can't count on Gregory for the first quarter of the season, head coach Jason Garrett said trusting the defensive end again is work in progress for the team and organization is a work in progress.
But that goes for all players, even the ones not facing suspensions.
"With any player, it's their job to prove to you on a daily basis that you can count on them," Garrett said Wednesday after the OTA practices at Valley Ranch. "That's for the players who have been here for a long time, and that's for the players who just got here. It's their job every day to come to work, be prepared, be ready to go, be mentally and physically and emotionally ready to be their best. And if you do that, day in and day out, you prove to your teammates and to your coaches that we can depend on you. So, Randy is going through that process, but we have some 80 guys on the team that are doing the same thing."
Garrett said he's had many conversations with Gregory, including a few concerning the suspension.
"Certainly it's very disappointing. There's no question about that," Garrett said. "We made that abundantly clear with him and he understands that more than anybody. But at some point you have to say OK this is what happened. This is what the consequences are for that action and now we're going to get to work. 'I've got to make sure it doesn't happen again and I've got to get to work as a football player to become a better player with the opportunities I do have.' That's what our emphasis is with him and really with the rest of the guys."
Gregory isn't the only player facing a suspension as DeMarcus Lawrence is also set to serve a four-game ban for violating the substance abuse program. The last two seasons, three other Cowboys defensive players, including Orlando Scandrick, have had four-game suspensions to start the year. Scandrick's ban was reduced to two by the NFL Players Association.
Don't expect that to occur for Gregory. But he can get some valuable practice reps at training camp and preseason action that will prepare him for the regular season when he becomes eligible.
When asked if he sees a more "serious" side of Gregory this year, Garrett pointed towards maturity, hoping his second-year defensive end will do that both on and off the field.[embeddedad0]
"I think every player who comes in needs to mature in a lot of different ways," Garrett said. "They need to mature physically. They need to mature mentally and emotionally. And Randy is no different than anyone else. One of our jobs as coaches is to make sure we expedite that process. We give him a structure. We give him instruction in all three areas. And hopefully they will respond to that. He is no different than any of the young guys we've had. That is a constant process we go through as coaches."