Wed Jun 9 7:04pm ET
By SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Pro Football Writer
FRISCO, Texas (AP) Randy Gregory wanted to make sure he didn't spend too much time away from the Dallas Cowboys' facility this offseason.
It's been six years since that was even an option for the oft-suspended defensive end.
The 28-year-old Gregory is part of the club in the spring for the first time since he was drafted in 2015. The NFL's substance-abuse bans have kept him away, and dropped football way down his list of priorities during the times he was on his own.
The former Nebraska standout believes he can help a much-maligned defense in 2021, but that confidence only partly comes from how he played after his fourth suspension ended last season. Another part is more difficult to measure.
''It's a lot of self-love,'' Gregory said this week during the Cowboys' mandatory three-day minicamp. ''There was a time in my life when you could ask me to say one good thing about myself and I couldn't. I could say 20 bad things.
''I have come a long way from that. I can say a lot of good things about myself. I am proud of myself. I am proud of where I am at. I am proud of the journey I took. A lot of guys don't make it as far as I have.''
Gregory tested positive for marijuana at the combine before he was drafted and his first suspension came soon after his rookie season. He played just two games total over two seasons in 2016-17 before career highs of six sacks and 14 games in 2018.
Another ban cost him all of 2019, and he was reinstated just before the start of last season while having to sit the first six games. He's never gone two full seasons without being suspended, but has that chance this year.
Maybe then Gregory will be closer to his wish.
''I want to get away from that past,'' Gregory said. ''I feel like there's a certain narrative you guys have to follow or choose to follow as far as my journey. That's what people want to read about and hear about.
''I've done a great job the last few years with the team on and off the field and I'm looking forward to the future, if that's three years, five years, whatever it is. I'm having fun. I'm doing what I need to do.''
Gregory had 3+ sacks in 10 games last year and said he was vocal with coaches about wanting more playing time while they were easing him back in on a defense that gave up the most points in franchise history.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, hired by Mike McCarthy after he replaced Jason Garrett as coach last year, were fired after just one season. They were replaced by Dan Quinn and Aden Durde.
''He'd better want to play more because I plan on playing him more,'' McCarthy said. ''I think the most important thing for him is he's been here every day. I didn't know Randy this time last year. He's doing great, looks great and we're expecting big things from him.''
The Cowboys knew they were taking a risk when drafting Gregory in the second round, but they have stuck with him through the suspensions in part because the front office knew Gregory would be a bargain because of how the bans affected his contracts. The $1.9 million he's due to make in 2021 is by far the most of his career, and then he will be an unrestricted free agent.
''Where I came from, I am not thinking about a damn contract right before the season starts,'' Gregory said. ''I still got a lot to do.''
Playing a full season would be one of those things. Injuries interrupted the two other chances he had, as a rookie in 2015 and again three years later.
Taking on a bigger leadership role would be another, since DeMarcus Lawrence is the only defensive lineman who has been with Dallas longer than the 28-year-old Gregory.
''I think that's one of the biggest things for me that I've always struggled with is my leadership skills on and off the field,'' Gregory said. ''I feel like guys are looking at me for input and advice or looking at me to make a play and show people how it's done.''
Being a team leader was far from Gregory's mind each of the past five offseasons. That it's even a possibility says plenty, as Gregory realized in a recent conversation with his father.
''He reads all this stuff, knows all this stuff talked about me,'' Gregory said. ''He's like, `It's funny. I don't see you being talked about as much in the media this year. I don't know if it's 'cause you're here and there's not that storyline or what?'
''Yeah I think that's a good thing. It's a win, I would agree. I think I understand why it's being asked. It takes time to build trust and that's what I'm going to do.''
Finishing a normal offseason will help build the trust.
NOTES: The Cowboys signed their first-round draft pick, LB Micah Parsons, the No. 12 overall selection. The remaining unsigned picks are CB Kelvin Joseph (second round) and DL Osa Odighizuwa (third round).
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed first-round outside linebacker Joe Tryon to his four-year rookie contract on Tuesday. Tryon was taken 32nd overall in the first round of this year's NFL draft out of the University of Washington. He opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns around COVID-19, but he managed to record eight sacks in college in 2019. Depending on how ready Tryon is for the NFL after taking a year off, he's an exciting pass-rusher off the edge that could become an impact player right away for an improving Buccaneers defense. He has the size and strength to be a full-time pass-rusher, but he also has the technique to drop into coverage if asked to do so. If not for the fact that he didn't play at all in 2020, he might've been long gone at pick No. 32.
Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan has been impressed with rookie running back Chris Evans so far this offseason. "He's got the most natural hands for a running back that I've ever been around," Callahan said. Evans was selected with the 202nd overall pick in this year's NFL draft out of Michigan. While the 23-year-old has the physical skills, he doesn't have a ton of experience. He probably won't be anything more than a late-round flier in much deeper fantasy leagues, but he could be dangerous in this offense eventually, especially in point-per-reception formats. Evans is obviously a much more attractive dynasty/keeper piece, but if Joe Mixon misses extended time with injury, there's definitely a path for Evans to find some relevant single-year appeal in a rising Bengals offense.
Free-agent wide receiver Golden Tate remains available on the open market after being released by the New York Giants following two disappointing seasons. The 32-year-old hasn't received much interest, but he wants to continue playing and mentioned the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams as three teams he'd be interested in joining. Tate wouldn't mind reuniting with quarterback Matthew Stafford in LA after enjoying three 1,000-yard seasons with Stafford in Detroit. The veteran wideout caught just 35 of 53 targets for 388 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games (four starts) for New York in 2020. He was benched at one point and dealt with a calf injury, so Tate will have to prove he's worth a spot on fantasy rosters again if he signs with a new team.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark was arrested in Los Angeles on Sunday after police saw a submachine gun in his car. Officers noticed a bag with an Uzi sticking out in plain sight in the car, and Clark was then arrested on suspicion of having a concealed firearm in a vehicle. He was booked into an LA county jail and released Monday on $35,000 bond. "We are aware of the matter, which will be reviewed under the NFL's personal conduct policy," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. The 28-year-old pass-rusher spent the first four seasons of his career with the Seattle Seahawks before being traded to the Chiefs in 2019. Clark has been a Pro Bowler each of the last two years with KC, so any suspension would be bad news for the Chiefs defense. He has 49 sacks in 91 career games, including 14 total in the last two seasons.
Minnesota Vikings rookie defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman was shot four times on Monday while visiting an aunt in Washington D.C. "Wrong place, wrong time," said his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. "In talking to him today, he's going to be OK - that's all that matters. We're thankful he's OK. He will make a full recovery." The 21-year-old suffered superficial exit wounds and will not need to have surgery. The Vikings selected Twyman with the 199th overall pick back in May. He was the first interior defensive lineman to lead Pittsburgh in sacks when he had 10.5 in 2019 since Aaron Donald achieved the feat six years earlier. Twyman opted out of the 2020 season in college due to concerns over COVID-19.
Kansas City Chiefs DE Frank Clark was reportedly arrested for felony possession of a concealed firearm in a vehicle Sunday, June 20. He was released on bond Monday, June 21.
Arizona Cardinals rookie linebacker Zaven Collins, who was the No. 16 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, was arrested on Sunday for excessive speed and reckless driving, according to the Scottsdale Police Department. The 22-year-old was observed going 76 mph in a 35-mph zone in Scottsdale, Ariz. Collins signed his fully guaranteed four-year rookie deal with Arizona on June 8 and is expected to start right away in 2021. The All-American from Tulsa is a big and physical presence in the middle of the field. Despite his size, he moves smoothly and is great in zone coverage. Although he shouldn't be considered a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, Collins has excellent closing speed and change-of-direction ability. It's not a great start to his rookie campaign, but Collins should pair nicely with last year's first-rounder, Isaiah Simmons.
Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Tyron Smith (neck), Zack Martin (calf, concussion) and La'el Collins (hip) didn't do much on-field work during spring practices, but all three are expected to be full participants when training camp begins at the end of July. The trio combined to miss 36 games in a lost 2020 season. The Cowboys were forced to use 13 different offensive line combinations a year ago without Smith, Martin and Collins. Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick also retired. Smith hasn't played a full season since 2015, but he said his injury is no longer something he's worried about. Collins said he's dropped around 10 pounds and is moving around fine. With these three linemen back healthy, Dallas' offensive line has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL, which is obviously great news for running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020, said the team's new offense under coordinator Joe Lombardi puts a lot more on his plate. "It's pretty similar. I think there are just more personnel [groups], more formations and a lot more put on the quarterback with going up to the line of scrimmage," Herbert said. The sky is the limit for Herbert, but it's not easy for a young signal-caller to have to learn a whole new offense in just his second season. It might be a lot to expect Herbert to make another big jump in Year 2 after throwing 31 touchdowns in 2020. The 23-year-old is one of the best young QBs to own in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he should be more of a low-end QB1 target in single-year leagues in 2021.
Baltimore Ravens WR Sammy Watkins was the best receiver at the team's minicamp as he made several contested grabs. QB Lamar Jackson said it's fun to throw to Watkins.
Fantasy Spin: Watkins hasn't been able to stay healthy and has one 1,000-yard season in his seven-year career. He could still be worth a WR4/5 flyer, but the upside isn't there for much more.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay couldn't be more happy with the team's new quarterback, Matthew Stafford. "Bro, this dude's a bad MF-er," McVay said, laughing. "Whatever people say about him, as good as it can be, he's even better than advertised. It makes sense to him. The guy's ability to see the game, his ability to draw on his experiences, the feel that he has, it's pretty special and unique. And man, his feel for people, his authentic way of connecting with his teammates, his coaches, this guy, it's great being around him." The 33-year-old was often undervalued while with the Detroit Lions, but now he has higher expectations with a much better supporting cast around him. Health is a concern, but Stafford is an excellent selection as a QB1 with upside after the bigger names at the position come off the board.
New York Jets LB C.J. Mosley, who opted out last season and played two partial games in 2019 due to injury, has looked slimmer and quicker in practices this offseason.
New York Jets WR Keelan Cole 'will be in the wide receiver rotation' following an impressive minicamp, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Jamal Agnew will likely handle both kick and punt return duties this season, according to Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com.
Free-agent RB Todd Gurley (Falcons) would be the No. 3 running back if he signs with the Detroit Lions behind RBs D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, according to the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett
Cleveland Browns WR Rashard Higgins (undisclosed) missed the last two days of minicamp because of a undisclosed injury. The injury is considered minor.
New Orleans Saints WR Tre'Quan Smith has been working out with QB Jameis Winston on a regular basis this offseason.
Fantasy Spin: Smith is in line for a bigger role this season and likely will be one of the starting receivers for the Saints. He has played well at times over the last few years and can be a deep threat option in the passing game. Fantasy players can consider him a No. 4 or No. 5 receiver.
Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson said he is open to playing on the one-year franchise tag this season. He said there is no news regarding a long-term contract with the Bears.
Fantasy Spin: Robinson has been one of the top receivers in the NFL over the last few seasons and will continue to be the main focus in the passing game for Chicago. He is a weekly must-start option in all fantasy leagues.
Free-agent PK Stephen Gostkowski (Titans) is interested in continuing his career.