IRVING, Texas – It's not as simple as being healthy for Randy Gregory – he also has to convince himself he is.
Strictly speaking, the Cowboys' rookie pass rusher returned from an ankle sprain several weeks ago. He's been healthy enough that he's played, albeit sparingly, in the team's two games since the bye week. Despite that fact Gregory said he's still dealing with the injury, albeit in a more mental capacity.
"Head games – just head games," he said. "It feels good. It's got a lot of support on it, but mentally, I'm not fully there yet."
That's not something you hear all that often from NFL players, and Gregory said it was an odd thing to explain. Essentially, he's still working on the confidence that his ankle is OK. It's a phenomenon he's encountered before, as recently as last year when he tore his meniscus during his final season at Nebraska.
"I'm still trying to trust my leg that it'll be alright," he said. "If I make this cut, even though it may sting a little bit, I'm going to be alright -- it's not going to be an injury. It's just real mental with me."
Gregory added that he can do everything required of him to rush the passer. He can cut, spin and run – again, he's just "not there yet" from a mental standpoint.
There's only one, real solution to that problem, according to Gregory, and that's to practice. He has been practicing regularly since the Cowboys returned from their bye week two weeks ago, but he said Wednesday was the most work he's done in that timeframe.
It was also the best work he's done.
"That's one of the things the coaches have talked to me about over the weekend and today, coming out here and having a good practice," he said. "I think I had a real good practice – I think I had one of the best padded practices I've had in a while. I got a lot of reps as far as pass rush and things like that, and it felt fine."
The coaches have to be hoping that can translate to the playing field this weekend. Gregory has only played in three games this season, and he hasn't recorded a sack as of yet. He's hopeful that Philadelphia's offense – complete with a less-mobile quarterback than last week's matchup of Russell Wilson – can help him with that.
"Last week we had to rush the quarterback a little bit differently, so I didn't really have the chance to get upfield and get around the corner, anything like that," he said. "Hopefully, this week they'll turn us loose a little bit more and have Bradford back there standing around a little bit more."
Hearing that, someone asked Gregory if three sacks was the expectation this weekend.
"Start off getting one first, see what I can do after that," he said.