No Need to Burden Randy Gregory With Expectations

He’s clearly glad to be back on the football field

The talent. The potential. The intelligence.

All of that will make you drool — scout, coach or fan — when you think about what Randy Gregory can do for your Dallas Cowboys.

Gregory makes it easy to fall in love with him.

Here’s some advice: Don’t.

Actually, you should put some Kevlar around your emotions when it comes to Gregory.

Trust me, it’s for your own good.

Gregory, reinstated to the NFL a couple of weeks ago, went through his first practice Wednesday after the Cowboys removed him from the Non-Football Injury list that allows him to go through the team’s walk-through practices, which is the first step toward going through padded practices, which is the first step toward getting into preseason games, which is the first step to getting ready for the season.

“I wanted to get him on as much tape today as I could,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said of Gregory. “A lot of these other guys have had a lot of this work and we film it."

“When you watch yourself on tape you’re so much more engaged than when you’re watching someone else. When you see yourself, that’s when it starts kicking in. That’s why we film so much,” said Marinelli.

Still, the Cowboys will work Gregory in slowly. Although he’s in good shape and he weighs 242 pounds, Gregory hasn’t been doing explosive lower-body movements.

The Cowboys don’t want him to have a quadriceps, hamstring, groin or calf strain, so they’re being careful with him.

He’s making progress. But we don’t want to compromise him early on here and put him behind where he should be,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’re just going to watch him and see if he can handle the different things we’re asking him to do.”

Understand, the Cowboys need a pass-rusher to complement Demarcus Lawrence, who had 14.5 sacks last season.

They need a guy can consistently beat one-on-one blocking and harass opposing quarterbacks because Lawrence is going to get double coverage.

Gregory, a first-round talent who dropped to the Cowboys in the second round of the 2015 draft, because of off-the-field issues might be that guy one day, you just can’t expect him to be that guy this season.

Now, maybe, he’ll develop into that guy by the time meaningful games in December roll around, but to expect it this season is foolish.

We’re talking about a guy who has dealt with substance-abuse issues for several years.

It’s why he spent much of the last two years suspended by the National Football League after violating it’s substance-abuse policy.

He has done a remarkable job warding off his demons and putting himself in position to play in the NFL once again. It’s no secret this is probably his last chance.

And that’s also why there’s no good reason to place expectations upon him or the burden of having to be a key contributor for these Cowboys. Go ahead, Google a list of all the players who essentially missed two years because of NFL-mandated suspensions and come back in their first year and been dominant players. You can spend a lifetime searching for a name and never find one.

A reasonable expectation for Gregory is that he’s a regular member of the Cowboys’ defense of line rotation and gets 15 snaps or 20 snaps a game.

The main thing is that Marinelli trusts Gregory enough to make him part of rotation.

Doing that would constitute a victory worthy of a parade. This is not to say he can’t have a huge year because Gregory has just about every tool you want for speed rusher.

No.1, he has speed. No.2, he can bend which means maneuvering his body to make it difficult to block him.

His teammates are thrilled to have him back. You can tell from their interactions.

Lawrence put him in a playful headlock the other day as they left the practice field. Tyrone Crawford gave him pointers between drills on Wednesday.

Crawford, Sean Lee and Jeff Heath wrote letters on his behalf to help get him back into the league.

He’s clearly glad to be back on the football field.

I could see it even in meetings and just watching football with us and around us,” Crawford said. “He’s definitely happy to be back out here, and we’re happy to have him back out here.”

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