ARLINGTON, Texas - It's been a long road back for Randy Gregory, and the 28-year-old pass rusher continues to get better and better since returning from an indefinite NFL suspension.
For the first time in his career Thursday, Gregory recorded double-digit sacks (two) in a game. He now ranks fourth on defense behind starting defensive ends Aldon Smith (5) and DeMarcus Lawrence (4.5) and safety Donovan Wilson (2.5)
The 47-16 Thanksgiving loss to Washington was Gregory's fifth game action since being conditionally reinstated by the league in early September.
"It felt good. It'd feel a lot better obviously if we got the win, but it felt good to go out there and display some of my athleticism and some of the stuff I've been wanting to do for a while," he said. "I'm glad I got a chance to go out there and do that, and I know there's ways I can help this team and that's one of the ways."
Gregory's snaps have risen since his late-October season debut at Washington. He only played 16 snaps against Minnesota last Sunday after dealing with an illness earlier in the week, but he still provided three pressures on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Thursday, he continued pushing the pocket against Washington quarterback Alex Smith, rushing off the edge and inside.
It's the type of impact the Cowboys envisioned once Gregory got reacclimated to football following such a long layoff. In February 2019, the NFL indefinitely suspended him for violating the Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse and the terms of his conditional reinstatement in 2018.
The 2015 second-round pick had already missed the better part of two seasons (2016-17) on league suspension. In 2018, he returned for 14 games and ranked second on the Cowboys' defense with six sacks.
Then came the next suspension that sidelined him for all of last season.
The Cowboys' chances of winning a struggling NFC East took a hit Thursday. Washington (4-7) now has a full one-game lead on Dallas (3-8), plus the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Technically, the Cowboys remain in the division race with five games remaining. Gregory's production is a bright spot entering December.
And the 28-year-old is thankful to be back after off-the-field matters kept him away from football and the Cowboys for so long.
"I'm very grateful to be where I'm at right now, to be able to go out there and play with this team," he said. "It's a day-to-day thing. I've got to wake up each day like it's a new day and put my best foot forward.
"Much like football, you've got to have a short memory. You're going to have mistakes on and off the field and I do every day. It's just personally as a father, as a son, as a human being in general. But yeah, I'm very grateful. I'm grateful my parents are here for Thanksgiving. They live here now. I'm grateful to be able to go out there and play because it truly is a blessing."