The wait is officially over. Randy Gregory initially applied for NFL reinstatement back in March, but was forced to wait due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that created delays in the processing of his application. That led to frustration on the part of Gregory, who recently lashed out at both the NFL and NFLPA over lack of decision as August came and went. the Dallas Cowboys believed there would be a verdict issued ahead of Week 1, and that's come to pass.
The same source confirmed on Friday afternoon that the NFL has conditionally reinstated Gregory for 2020, and he can report to the team facility as early as Monday, Sept. 7. He'll first submit to an acclimation period, however, given his absence from football in 2019 and in 2020 training camp -- per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network -- and won't be allowed to begin practicing formally until Oct. 5. He will then be allowed to take the field for games as early as Week 7 against the Washington Football Team.
The veteran pass rusher took to Twitter shortly thereafter to issue a statement:
"Today is the day of celebration and thanks," he wrote. "I would like to thank Roger Goodell, Todd Jones and Kevin Monara of the NFL, Jerry and Stephen Jones, Jason Cohen, Will MCClay, Todd Williams and Josh Brent of the Cowboys. [As well as] Dr. Dina Hijazi, DeMaurice Smith, my agent Peter Schaffer and most importantly my family for sticking by my [side] through thick and thin, and to helping me get to the positive place I am today.
"It's go time. I am in a good place and plan to use this second chance to be a great father, player, citizen of Dallas and teammate. Let's get this!! #RG94"
Gregory rejoins a loaded Cowboys defensive front that now boasts not only DeMarcus Lawrence, but also Dontari Poe, Everson Griffen and Aldon Smith -- the latter having been reinstated for play earlier this spring. The addition of Neville Gallimore and Bradlee Anae in the 2020 NFL Draft simply adds that much more firepower to the line, along with an improving former second-round pick in Trysten Hill. That's quite the embarrassment of riches for Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, whose goal is to punish opposing quarterbacks to help fuel takeaways at all three defensive levels.
The 27-year-old played well for the Cowboys in 2018, his longest stretch of availability since joining the team, delivering a career-high six sacks, 15 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 14 games with just a single start. Selected with the 60th-overall pick in 2015, the former two-time first-team All-Big Ten honoree was available for 12 games but suffered a high ankle sprain that cost him four games.
From there, things took a dark turn in his young NFL career.
Gregory, who has since been diagnosed with bipolar depression and clinical anxiety and now uses marijuana to self-medicate, failed a drug test that led to a four-game suspension being handed down in February 2016. That was followed by the league handing down an extended suspension due to additional testing issues that added a 10-game ban at the back end of the initial four-game punishment. He'd return to play in the final two games of the 2016 season, landing his first career sack in the process, but yet another run-in with the league's substance abuse policy one month prior led to an eventual year-long suspension -- sidelining him in the playoffs that year and for the entirety of his 2017 season.
Gregory was reinstated in July 2018 and had the best season of his career, as noted above, before being given an indefinite suspension in January 2019 that cost him the following season. It's been a long road back for Gregory, but he plans on sticking around for the next several years to come.
"I will be back this year," Gregory told CBS Sports in an exclusive Q&A this offseason. "Difference is, I'll be back for good this time."
His talent has never been in question, and Gregory has never had any issues with law enforcement or any other off-the-field issue outside of his clashes with the NFL over his decision to self-medicate using marijuana. And while he won't be grandfathered into the new collective bargaining agreement that vastly decriminalizes it, the new-look NFL instructed each of the 32 teams to construct a framework of detailed support for players with mental health struggles, which joined with Gregory's own individual efforts to get back onto the field for the Cowboys.
Now back with the team, owner Jerry Jones can smile wryly knowing his efforts in supporting Gregory have not been for naught.