USA Today

There's a list of absences the Dallas Cowboys are attempting to work through on both offense and defense, all due to a variety of injuries, but they'll now be without a linebacker for an entirely different reason. Luke Gifford, a second-year talent who's been relegated to special teams under Mike McCarthy, has been suspended two games by the NFL for violating the league's PED policy -- sources confirm to CBS Sports. 

The shortened suspension is directly linked to the new collective bargaining agreement, and hints strongly at it being Gifford's first offense and likely for either a masking agent or league-banned stimulant. Gifford will be eligible to return to the team on Dec. 4, following the meeting with the Baltimore Ravens, putting him in line to return to live action for Week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals

His suspension puts a dent in the depth at linebacker, but more so in the special teams unit, where he's logged 121 snaps (43%) this season. He's taken just one defensive snap all year, but remained at the ready in case of injury at the position.

A former undrafted free agent in 2019, Gifford came on strong in his rookie preseason with the Cowboys, hinting at a potential seat on the final roster before suffering a high ankle sprain that cost him time. The Cowboys opted to retain his rights with the hopes of seeing more, but his return in Week 6 of 2019 saw him held to special teams, where he'd spend the remainder of the season before suffering a broken arm in Week 15 that ended his season -- having participated in six games as a rookie. 

The former Nebraska standout has been healthy in Year 2 but still unable to crack into the defensive rotation, and his suspension won't do him any favors when it comes to building rapport with McCarthy and his staff.