FRISCO — Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory put his pads and helmet back on in June.
He began working three to four times a week with former All-Pro defensive end Greg Townsend, sharpening his hand placement and pass rushing, his spin moves and his get-offs.
The suspended lineman wanted to be ready, as soon as the NFL was, for his reinstatement. Repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy warranted a combined 14-game suspension in 2016 followed by a year-long ban for the 2017 season.
For 18 months, Gregory couldn’t play in the league, visit Cowboys headquarters or have communication with coaches or teammates.
On Tuesday, that all changed.
Gregory has been reinstated into the league on a conditional basis, the league announced Tuesday afternoon. He is allowed to rejoin the Cowboys at training camp next week for practices, meetings and conditioning. Once Gregory and those close to him clarify arrangements for his clinical resources in Dallas, he’ll be clear to join the team back home as well.
Gregory was ecstatic at the decision, he told The Dallas Morning News by phone Tuesday, though not surprised after meeting league requests before petitioning for reinstatement.
“It’s a lot more to the story than it seems,” Gregory said. “It took me a lot to get to this point. Now I’m ready to make some plays.”
The reinstatement efforts took months. Gregory worked on personal recovery while attorney Daniel Moskowitz spearheaded efforts for a more than 2,000-page application they began submitting in May to league headquarters.
Included was information about Gregory’s California treatment and abstinence from substance abuse. Teammates Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford and Jeff Heath wrote letters to Commissioner Roger Goodell in support of Gregory.
“Randy is a good person, with a big heart and an infectious personality,” Lee wrote in part.
“I believe he can come back and be a success story in the league,” Crawford wrote.
On June 12, Gregory, Moskowitz and Gregory’s agent, Steve Weinberg, met with Goodell at league headquarters to petition for reinstatement. The commissioner rarely meets directly with players seeking reinstatement, so Goodell listening to the presentation from Gregory’s team and NFLPA representation gave them hope.
“I’m very excited for the public and media to get to know the real Randy Gregory,” Moskowitz said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “To get to know his story, which is nothing short of remarkable.”
The Cowboys drafted Gregory out of Nebraska in the second round in 2015. He’s played in 14 career games — only two since 2015 — tallying 20 tackles and one sack. He returns with two years remaining on his rookie contract. His 2017 season away from games and without pay does not count toward his contract accruement.
Gregory will receive what would have been his 2017 base salary — $781,813 — this season. He’ll become a restricted free agent in 2020 because of his minimal 2016 playing time, Weinberg said.
Gregory will be in Stage 3 of the league’s drug program for at least two years, subject to unannounced drug tests and other provisions for remaining sober and on track. A Cowboys spokesperson declined comment Tuesday.
Gregory returns to a defensive end group with Crawford, 2017 first-rounder Taco Charlton, free agent signing Kony Ealy and franchise-tagged DeMarcus Lawrence, whose 14 1/2 sacks tied for second-most in the league last season. Talented interior lineman David Irving, who recorded seven sacks in eight games last season, is suspended the first four games for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Gregory returns to training camp after more than a month under Townsend’s wing, working drills he said remind him of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s style.
Marinelli hasn’t given up hope on Gregory, the 69 year old saying in June he’s ready to get Gregory back in a stance to work on his timing.
“He’s talented, no question,” Marinelli said. “And he’s a great guy. And smart.”
Gregory is ready to start back wherever Marinelli asks.
“I don’t have any crazy expectations,” Gregory said, after joking he’d aim for 45 sacks in 2018. “Try to be the best professional I can on and off the field.
“I think I’ve shown that off the field these last months. Now I’ll prove it on the field.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
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