FRISCO, Texas – There was a new face on the field Thursday as the Cowboys reported for their first practice of Week 16.
After months of speculation and discussion about his future and his availability, Randy Gregory was in fact on hand as the Cowboys began their preparations for Detroit. It's the first-time the second-year defensive end has been available to practice since the spring, when he took part in the offseason program.
"We anticipate him practicing," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "We'll see how he does in individual and hopefully get more and more as the day goes on."
Gregory was suspended four games in February for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He had another 10 games tacked on over the summer for further violations. When the Cowboys reported to training camp, he entered a treatment facility.
It seemed like a bit of a long shot the talented pass rusher would be available when the suspension ended, but Cowboys officials have reiterated several times this week that they expect Gregory to contribute down the home stretch of the season.
"I do know that we're planning on having him practice this week and playing this weekend," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones on Monday.
Gregory's return comes at a fortuitous time for this Dallas pass rush, as the Cowboys are coping with multiple injuries on the defensive line. DeMarcus Lawrence and Cedric Thornton both sat out of practice again, after missing all of last week and the game against Tampa Bay.
Tyrone Crawford and Benson Mayowa both suffered injuries in that win against the Buccaneers, but they were both on hand for practice on Thursday.
Morris Claiborne is still absent while he recuperates from a groin injury, but J.J. Wilcox once again practiced Thursday after returning to the field last week. The Cowboys held Wilcox out of the Tampa Bay game, but there's optimism he'll be available Monday against the Lions.
The Cowboys were also without Justin Durant, who injured his elbow in the second half of the Tampa Bay game.
With all those injury concerns on the defensive side of the ball, it has to be considered encouraging that the Cowboys' entire offense was on hand for practice.