Cowboys’ Randy Gregory reportedly applies for NFL reinstatement, team prepared for his return

Randy Gregory is holding firm to his word thus far. The maligned veteran pass rusher is currently serving an indefinite NFL suspension handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell in the offseason following the 2018 season, but he has now taken a major step toward returning to the league. In a recent exclusive conversation, Gregory told CBS Sports his plan of not only returning to the NFL but of doing so “for good this time.” To that end, he’s reportedly officially filed for reinstatement into the league, per Todd Archer of ESPN, and the Dallas Cowboys are effectively preparing for his return in 2020. 

“I am happy,” Gregory told me days ahead of the reported filing. “And in a better place mentally more than ever.”

If the 27-year-old has in fact submitted his paperwork to the league office — the timing of this news following the conversation with CBS Sports suggesting he has — Goodell is obligated to issue a ruling within no greater than 60 days. The Cowboys would prefer to hear not only a positive verdict but also a fairly swift one, considering the 2020 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching and they’re currently in the midst of building their draft board.

Assuming Gregory is reinstated as expected, his presence would greatly lessen the need to grab help at the EDGE rusher position this April. 

The path back for Gregory has not been an easy one, as he continues to use marijuana medicinally to cope with clinically diagnosed mental illnesses. The ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement does include language that drastically decriminalizes how positive tests for marijuana are handled in the NFL — no longer issuing suspensions if a player tests solely for THC and raising the bar for what would be deemed a positive test — but those relaxed parameters don’t apply to Gregory, because the stipulations of his return would be tethered to the old CBA.

That is to say, if he fails or misses another test in the future, he’ll be again subject to league discipline. 

How the new CBA does work in his favor, however, is it forces teams to establish improved mental health options that include an on-staff clinician, and the change of landscape in how the use of marijuana is viewed would suggest Goodell is no longer heavy-handed in situations like Gregory’s. So if Gregory does in fact test positive solely for THC in the future, while Goodell still has the power to suspend him, the league’s evolution toward mental health support and turning a blind eye to marijuana use hints at the commissioner giving him a newfound benefit of the doubt.

Gregory’s return would see him instantly fill the void created by the Cowboys’ loss of Robert Quinn in free agency, and would reunite him with DeMarcus Lawrence — a tandem that produced 16.5 sacks in 2018. Gregory himself delivering a career-best 6.5 sacks in a career-high 14 games played during the 2018 season. Lawrence and Gregory would join forces with the newly-signed five-time All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and versatile veteran Tyrone Crawford up front.

All signs point to Gregory being on the field this coming season, but all eyes are on Goodell now to see what happens next. For his part, Gregory has no doubt he’ll suit up in a few months for the Cowboys.

“I will be back this year.”

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