Mick Shots: Few Bet On This Long Shot 

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FRISCO, Texas – Long Shot.

Might as well start there.

Back the summer of 2016, when we found out Randy Gregory would be suspended the first four games of the season, then subsequently 10 more, someone told me basically, "Randy Gregory will never play another down of football for the Cowboys."

Well, he ended playing 66 downs in the final two games of that season. But, before the Cowboys got to the playoffs, Gregory was issued a one-year suspension, once again for violating the NFL's policy on substance abuse. Gregory's substance of choice was marijuana, coupled with missing mandatory tests, judged the same as testing positive.

At that time, the prediction seemed pretty solid, knowing Gregory would miss the entire 2017 season, meaning he would have gone two full seasons, and encompassing 24 months while having played just two games. On top of that, he would have to prove he could become a productive citizen away from football and conquer his predilection for marijuana before the NFL would even consider reinstatement.

Yep, that Randy Gregory would ever play another down of football in the NFL, a Long Shot!

Well, Gregory, the Cowboys' 2015 second-round draft choice is getting that shot, the NFL announcing Tuesday he has been "conditionally reinstated," just in time for next week's start to training camp. That appears to be a mere formality. Aside from the behavioral review, his attorney Daniel Moskowitz and agent Steve Weinberg devised a clinical resource plan to meet the NFL's requirements. That plan has two parts: for the time Gregory will spend in Oxnard, Calif., during training camp and then the one continuing once the team returns here for the remainder of the preseason and regular season.

At this time, Gregory has been cleared to attend camp, meetings and continue his conditioning with the Cowboys' staff off to the side during practices. And once his "compliance resources" have been officially hired, being allowed to begin practicing and then participate in preseason games becomes a mere formality . . . as long as he doesn't miss any more tests or test positive again.

That's the technical part.

As for the football part, remember, he has not played or practiced a down of football since the Cowboys' final game of the 2016 regular season, Jan. 1, 2017. That's a long time away, a full 18 months, but remember, add another four months to that, with only two games played.

So, as defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli says, let's get him in his stance, first, then go from there. Time away naturally hampers skills. But at least Gregory, under the guidance of former Raider Greg Townsend, has been working out for the past month, ever since petitioning the league back in mid-June for reinstatement when he and his representatives met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

While the Cowboys are excited over his return, they are realistic at this point over expectations right off the bat. Meaning, when asked about what we think Gregory can do this year, we'll put this in the "we'll see" category, right along with another dozen unknowns the Cowboys are facing.

Fine. But at least Gregory has a shot.

·     Burning Hot: At this very moment of typing, 2:50 p.m. on Wednesday, it's 102 at The Star, on the way to 104. Not a creature is stirring out on the two outdoor practice fields. But these players coming back here early to prepare for next Wednesday's conditioning test have been smart. They are either doing their running on the grass field during the morning, or as I witnessed Monday, late at night, after the sun goes down in then then barely sub-100-degree temps.

·     MVSF: That stands for Most Valuable Sports Franchise, and that means the Dallas Cowboys, for the third straight year ranked as the world's most valuable sports team, the $4.8 billion estimated worth outranking those lucrative European soccer clubs. Even the fifth-ranked New York Yankees, too, their $4 billion worth the next highest American-based team. Forbes points out the Cowboys have "the highest revenue ($840 million) and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization ($350 million) of any franchise." Not a bad 30-season return on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' initial $140 million investment back on Feb. 25, 1989. Sort of like turning a $1 bet into $3.4 million.

·     Romo Rolling: One weekend former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo takes home the Racine (Wis.) Tri-Course Amateur championship and the next the American Century Championship in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., earning the distinction this year as the best celebrity golfer. But since Romo is an amateur, his $125,000 first-place prize money went to charity. Romo's golfing hot streak came to an end earlier this week, though, at the U.S. Amateur Qualifier in Berlin, Wis., where he finished in a tie for 15th, 10 shots behind the second of the two qualifiers for the amateur tournament.

·     Tank Full: The Cowboys and franchised defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence didn't even come close to knocking out a long-term deal by Monday's 3 p.m. deadline. In fact, sounds as if there really weren't any last-minute discussions on a multi-year deal. So, Lawrence must settle for his guaranteed $17.143 million, one-year deal, like more than three times what he has earned with his initial four-year rookie deal of $5.5 million. Aside from no long-term guarantees, health providing, not bad take-home pay, and why "Tank" was more than satisfied when quickly signing his tagged qualifying offer.

Next Shots coming from Oxnard, where at this very moment, 1:40 p.m. (PDT), it's 70 degrees. Come see us.

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