Jonathan Bachman / Contributor

Cowboys starting tackle La'el Collins was surprised by the five-game suspension the NFL handed down last week and continues to fight for further appeal along with agent Peter Schaffer. Collins was suspended for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, which has been altered in this most recent collective bargaining agreement.

Collins played for the Cowboys on Thursday at Tampa and then was alerted about his suspension. Collins has been tested roughly 10 times a month over the past 18 months, and, according to sources, has not tested positive for marijuana once between Oct. 21, 2020 and Aug. 11, 2021. However, Collins has been cited seven times for "failure to appear" for testing, although often with mitigating circumstances, according to sources.

The NFL, in its decision to suspend Collins, came to the conclusion that those seven failures constituted grounds for a suspension, with Schaffer now challenging that in further appeal. On some occasions, the testing dates that Collins missed were on days when the Cowboys had sent players home due to a COVID-related situation, and there were mitigating circumstances.

As of now, Collins and the Cowboys have to operate under the assumption that he will not be available for the next five games, pending any decisions made on this new appeal that is being crafted. There does not appear to be any language in the new substance-abuse policy that stipulates seven failures to appeal equates specifically to "failure to cooperate," which the agreement includes as grounds for suspension.

The Cowboys had their starting tackles together in Week 1 for just the first time since December 2019, with the offensive line a strength of the team before injuries and illness and retirements caused the unit to be reshuffled. Left tackle Tyron Smith has battled significant injuries in recent years, while now Collins's immediate availability is clearly in jeopardy.

Excited for the biggest NFL schedule in history? Follow along on the CBS Sports app and get the latest insights from our team of NFL insiders, plus news from our team of experts, as well as data insights on every player. If you already have the CBS Sports app, make sure to favorite the your favorite team so you don't miss a thing!