Spagnola: Looks To Be On The Path To Get Right

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OXNARD, Calif. – You don't need me or anyone else to tell you Randy Gregory seems a changed man. Or a cured man.

        Just do yourself a favor and watch the video of the 7 minutes, 46 seconds he spent with the media here at training camp, the first time he's spoken to the group since he finally participated in team drills during Sunday's padded practice. Remember, that's the first time since the final week of the 2016 season when the NFL suspended him an entire year, that after serving a 14-game suspension in 2016.

        Watch it from the beginning when he says, "I think the last two weeks has been real fun. I think the days, the weeks, the months leading up to this have been pretty emotional. I think I've learned to handle my emotions a lot better than I have in the past. A lot of ups and downs . . . ."

        Watch it all the way to the end, when the Cowboys' 25-year-old defensive end finishes by saying ". . . . I think the moment I took a more serious approach to that with my therapy, and the more people around me understood what I was going through mentally, I think it made it a lot easier for me to get right."

        And straight.

        Watch his face closely. His eyes. How deliberate his answers are. How there seems to be a higher level of conviction and honesty in what he is saying. It's not as if he is trying to fool anyone with hollow lip-service. He wasn't throwing out a lot of "you knows." Nor was he shaking his head around, as if uncomfortable with the entire situation.

        He stood up straight. Looked people in the eye. Randy was not apologetic. Nor was he wimpy, as if asking for mercy.

        To me, and I know you guys will do as instructed and watch/listen to the video, this is the part that in particular that struck me when asked if he was diagnosed being bipolar:

"I think they've diagnosed me with a lot of things. At this point I can't really say what I believe is right and what's wrong. I do trust a doctor's opinion over mine. But also, I understand there's a lot of different things you can do throughout that process to make life easier for yourself and a lot of those things I was putting in front of myself, self-sabotage. And I had to realize that I had to grow up a little bit, and I think I have.

"I can't really address the bipolar thing. I think that's kind of a private matter. But anybody that deals with what I have to deal with and have gone through what I've gone through and understand the process of what I've been through, I think can understand that there's obviously a mental aspect to it, along with emotionally."

        To me, to fix a problem or to deal with a problem, you first have to understand there is a problem and what the problem is.

        And to me, while the stigma attached to Gregory the minute he was taken with a second-round pick in the 2015 draft because he tested positive for marijuana at The NFL Combine was that he was a pothead, there always seemed to be a larger issue causing him to self-medicate despite knowing what was on the line – serious money and a career.

        Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has said it over and over, how he thinks Gregory is a good kid, a good person, a smart person. I can remember before a preseason game his rookie season, Randy's dad introduced himself to me on the sideline. Remember his cautionary words to this day: "Randy's not a bad kid."

        He just had a bad problem, potholes waiting for him at every turn.

        So, he continued being forthcoming and thoughtful on this Monday, as if he hasn't been just hearing over these past eight months, but actually listening:

"Yeah, there's a lot more to it. I think the stigma obviously, what I've been known to get in trouble for is the marijuana issues, substance abuse, so that's what is going to stick to the media and the fans and things like that, and that's fine.

"But I just would like everyone to realize that there is more to it and there is a stigma behind it, and it's not just somebody walking around carelessly doing what they want. Like I said, there's obviously a mental aspect to it that plays a big part in it for me that I've had to try to figure out. And I think the moment I took a more serious approach to that with my therapy and the more people around me understood what I was going through mentally, I think it made it a lot easier for me to get right."

        Now the question remains, can he stay right?

        Can he help the Cowboys by Sept. 9, at Carolina?

        Cowboys owner Jerry Jones unequivocally answered the second one after Sunday's padded practice, in which he would have recorded two sacks in a couple of the 11-on-11 sessions.

        Yes . . . yes . . . yes I do," Jones said.

        As for the first one, let's turn to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who has seen about everything there is to see during his 23 years of coaching in the NFL.

        "What a great testament for him and the organization," Marinelli said of Gregory at least getting himself right enough to earn this third chance and the Cowboys patiently remaining by his side.

        "But he's the one that has to do it. It's day to day."

        And he has help, since to earn reinstatement Gregory and those aiding his reinstatement had to come up with a satisfactory after-care plan to suit the NFL's needs. He will continue with regular therapy, and will have a life coach with him, not only during the season but during the offseason, too.

        Three of those helping him every step of the way have been attorney Daniel Moskowitz, who has served Gregory in more capacities than just legal; NFL agent Steve Weinberg; and since December 15, 2018, advisor Michael Ornstein, an NFL powerbroker and former marketing agent who has been attending practices here for the past couple of weeks.

        Ornstein said the first step was getting Gregory to L.A. to "dry out" for two months. Then "put him in a sober place." Ornstein says when they first came in contact with Gregory he was 198 pounds. Now he's back in the 240s.

        "It's a disease," Ornstein says of the addition Gregory is battling.

        And what's his motivation?

        Ornstein says, to take a line from Schindler's List, "If you save one life, you save a generation."

        So here we go. Here Gregory goes. The Cowboys didn't give up on him when most were screaming for them to cut him. And most of all, Gregory, with a lot of help, didn't give up on himself – his life or his desired career.

        Marinelli says that's a sign that he was close to losing something he really wanted: A career in the NFL. The 69-year-old coach says when something you really want is taken away from you, a job you really want to have, a man will fight tooth and nail to get it back if it means that much to him.

        Resolve is a powerful medication.

        "I see a real man, his cards have been tough," Marinelli says of this hopeful comeback.

        "He has grown right in front of us."

        At this point in his recovery and his football comeback, sure seems indeed Gregory is getting it right. Now it's a matter of keeping it right.

        Watch the video. Appears he's at least on the right track.

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