Randy Gregory is back, almost, and not a moment too soon. Having been reinstated by the NFL just ahead of the 2020 season, the 27-year-old is eligible to return to practice on Wednesday leading into the Week 5 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, and that’s good news for a defense anxious to get some assistance soon. The team hadn’t yet made a determination on if Gregory would be worked into practice this week, but it was expected he would when considering he’s already in great physical and mental form, and head coach Mike McCarthy made it official by announcing the talented edge rusher would begin in individual drills and progress from there.

Gregory is officially eligible to return to play on Oct. 25, when the Cowboys take on the Washington Football Team. 

“I will be back this year,” Gregory told CBS Sports months ahead of his reinstatement. “Difference is, I’ll be back for good this time.”

His ability to terrorize opposing quarterbacks is sorely missed right now in Dallas, as the defense struggles to consistently get pressure outside of Aldon Smith — who himself was reinstated this season. Smith led the league in sacks going into Week 4 with four total, and no other player has more than one (two of those players being defensive backs). All-Pro pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence is battling a knee injury that’s severely dampened his playing time and newly-acquired talent such as Dontari Poe and Everson Griffen aren’t playing up to standard. 

Having lost Gerald McCoy for the season before it even began, then subsequently releasing him, there’s plenty of room for Gregory to return and get back to burning the edge. Inserting the former second-round pick into the defensive front in two weeks gives the Cowboys the ability to rush him opposite Smith in certain sets and to spell Smith in others, making for a much more threatening front. That should become music to the ears of a porous secondary, who is struggling in coverage and could use some pressure up front to remove it from the back end. 

Gregory had six sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 2018 despite logging just one start in 14 games — after having not played in 2017 and with only two games in 2016 under his belt due to suspension — hinting at his freakish ability to step right in after a long hiatus and get right to work. The Cowboys are currently seeing the same in Smith, and there’s a great chance the team’s sack leaders for 2020 will end up being two players who many thought would never again take an NFL snap. 

With Smith and Gregory on great footing mentally in their battle with their respective demons, and with the league’s newly-relaxed stance on the use of marijuana, the door is wide open for Gregory to finally become what he and the Cowboys have been waiting for.

“I am happy,” Gregory said to me in March. “And in a better place mentally more than ever.”

The two sides agreed to a one-year extension immediately following his reinstatement, keeping him in tow through the 2021 season and giving him a chance to earn up to $2.1 million next season. As for this season, he’s now back at practice and only two weeks away from again making his presence felt in the NFL.

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