After yet another suspension of a Dallas Cowboys player by the NFL, it’s time that the organization leaders address the problem to stop this in the future.
A former coach for the Dallas Cowboys once spoke an oft-referenced quip when asked about the team at that time, “You are what you are.” Unfortunately, when it comes to players earning a suspension, the Cowboys are what they are. What they are is embarrassing.
Since 2012, 245 NFL players have been put on suspension due to violations of the league’s substance abuse policy. I’ll give you one guess at which team is tied for the top spot for most times a player appears on that list.
If you want to try to minimize the damage, I suppose you could just blame two guys for half of those occurrences. Choosing to employ Rolando McClain and Randy Gregory has certainly not done the Dallas Cowboys any favors. Still, thirteen suspensions in five years is beyond ridiculous.
Removing those two from the list would still mean the Cowboys have had six players suspended in five years. That would be more than 14 other teams in the NFL during that time span.
If you consider that most suspensions are of the four game variety, that means that six players have sat out of 24 games since 2012. When availability is often times one of the most important abilities, that’s a problem.
Factor in McClain hasn’t played a game since 2015 and Gregory play just twice last season and that’s a lot of time off the field. Clearly, off the field is the biggest challenge for these guys. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Thankfully, the Cowboys do get some reprieve in the way of the salary cap as it pertains to these situations. Teams can recoup the same proportion of the prorated amount of a player’s signing bonus as he’s losing in base salary. Teams are also required under the collective bargaining agreement to recoup signing bonuses for PED and substance-abuse suspensions.
Obviously teams are not signing players with the intent of having to take these types of measures though. If players like McClain or Gregory were actually available, who knows how much better the Cowboys could have been over the past two years.
At some point, this has to stop.
The head coach talks about having the right types of guys in the locker room. In an effort to avoid painting a person with a broad brush, I won’t go as far as to say Lawrence or Irving are detrimental to the culture of the team.
McClain and Gregory, however, are clearly different stories.
At some point the four-headed monster that runs this organization needs to start setting a different course.
We all know the story of how the Cowboys passed on drafting Randy Moss, once upon a time, due to his college history with drugs. Choosing to do so was a huge mistake. Going in the complete opposite direction due to that error is just exacerbating it.
From the looks of things, the past two drafts have brought some high character type players onto the squad. Free agency has also been an area where the Cowboys have been slightly more cautious.
It’s still not enough however. There is a big difference between releasing a player like Shaquelle Evans who has no shot of making the team and someone like Lawrence or Irving.
I’m not sure anyone has the answer to the problem. Maybe it’s a more of a players’ union thing? Could they could entertain giving up protecting players and allow for longer, more financially painful suspensions?
Regardless, the Dallas Cowboys do have some say in the matter. Maybe the next player, regardless of status, gets released if they violate the policy. Possibly, the Cowboys could implement deeper background checks when it comes to the draft and free agency as well.
Either way, hopefully the fourteenth suspension is a long ways away.