IRVING, Texas – Orlando Scandrick returns to the Cowboys "relieved" and "thankful" to be back with his team two weeks earlier than his initial suspension called for.
The cornerback was two games into a four-game suspension that was lifted after changes to the NFL drug policy, allowing him to practice Wednesday for the first time during the 2014 regular season.
"I've got a whole lot to prove," Scandrick said. "I've missed two games. I want to pick up where I left off. All of my goals, my season goals, are right ahead of me."
Head coach Jason Garrett said he'll wait to see how practice goes to determine Scandrick's immediate role. Scandrick said he doesn't control who plays, but he'd like to hope the best players will play.
It's certainly possible Scandrick returns to the starting lineup this Sunday. The Cowboys have used Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne as the starting corners with Scandrick out, while Sterling Moore played as the nickel corner in the slot.
"We believe in competitive situations," Garrett said. "We don't have any doctrines about if a guy's a starter when he gets hurt, does he come back as starter? We don't have any of those things on our team. We look at the guys, see who can help and what role they can help us in. He's certainly been a good player for us. The other guys have played well in his absence."
Scandrick was originally suspended four games under the old performance-enhancing drug policy after testing positive for amphetamines, but the discipline of players for certain violations has been adjusted to reflect the new ruling. In the new policy, players testing positive for banned stimulants in the offseason will no longer suffer a performance-enhancing drug suspension and will instead be referred to the substance abuse program.
"We all recognize that we made a mistake, and we'll pay the price for making a mistake by being admitted into the substance abuse program for the amount of time that the clinician decides," Scandrick said. "I'm not worried about it. I'm focused. I'm focused on football and I'm excited. I'm excited about this team. I'm excited about this defense, and most of all, I'm excited about Sunday's game."
On Wednesday, Scandrick didn't want to touch too much on the past and what transpired, but he added that it'll never happen again.
He's known about the positive test since April, but he also knew he didn't do anything to gain a competitive advantage. Scandrick said his argument throughout his appeal was that what he did wasn't performance-enhancing.
"That was the biggest thing, not having that on my record, not having a failed test for performance-enhancing drugs – that's big," Scandrick said. "All of that not being on my record and everyone knowing I'm not a cheater, because I'm not, and I was adamant from the time that I got caught for this: I am not a cheater."
In Scandrick, the Cowboys get back a starting veteran corner and standout at training camp. He thought there was a slim hope he could play last week, but he knew he'd be coming back and returning at some point this week.
It turned out that time was Wednesday morning, and he was on the field later in the day. Scandrick wasn't allowed to be around the team during his suspension, but he's appreciated the support he's gotten from his head coach and teammates.
"It was great to be back with those guys," he said. "I had texted back and forth with them throughout this whole process, and we thought maybe I'd be able to play next week, and then we thought maybe I'd be able to come back and be back Monday, and we thought maybe Tuesday. Here it is Wednesday at about 9:30, I find out I'm good to come back."
Scandrick said it was tough and frustrating watching his team without being there to help, only able to work out on his own, waking up at 6:30 a.m. every day to do that. He knew getting back to practice was essential, because he wasn't working out against anyone.
The corner saw what happened to the Colts' Robert Mathis, who injured his Achilles working out during his four-game suspension. That was in the back of his mind and made him hesitant to do competitive work against other people, so getting back to practice with his team was essential. [embedded_ad]
"I lifted weights, I ran, I rested," Scandrick said. "I feel good. I felt explosive today. I felt fast. Just a couple things I need to get back used to doing – tracking the ball, going and getting the ball. Just things that through the week progressively I'll get better at, and on Sunday I'll be ready to play."
Scandrick's glad to get this behind him. He said adversity shows a man's true character, and he feels like he's returning to the team mentally stronger and ready to help. He's also glad to see all the new changes to the drug policy, including human growth hormone testing, which will be fully implemented this season and could begin by the end of the month.
"It was only what was right," Scandrick said. "We talk about cleaning up our game and keeping a clean game, well we're not keeping a clean game if we're suspending guys for stimulants and not testing guys for Human Growth Hormones. I think it kind of went hand in hand. I think this is better for the game, and I think that now that we got our HGH tests implemented, we'll make sure our game stays clean." e're just holding it down for him the best we can do."