Randy Gregory of the Cowboys tested positive for COVID-19
Posted On September 14, 2021
FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys opened their season against the Buccaneers with a starter sidelined due to COVID-19.
They risk missing another first-team lineman when they travel to Los Angeles this week to face the Chargers.
Defensive end Randy Gregory has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been placed on the reserve / COVID-19 list. Gregory is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, a person with knowledge of his symptoms told USA TODAY Sports on Monday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation. “Try to come back as soon as possible,” the person added.
Gregory cannot join the team until he has tested negative on consecutive COVID-19 tests, 24 hours apart while he is asymptomatic.
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Gregory started at right defensive end in the Cowboys’ 31-29 loss to the Buccaneers. He played in 57% of defensive snaps (37 total snaps), recovering a forced fumble by left defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Gregory also threw a Leonard Fournette tackle in the second quarter.
“I felt like we had given up too many explosive games,” said Gregory of Raymond James Stadium after the game. “We returned the ball, which is good, but we have to reduce the explosive plays. We go out with two minutes left, and we have to go and put a bag for them.
“We can’t just let him go out and go our separate ways like that.”
Gregory’s absence against the Chargers would position the Cowboys for an even more difficult challenge.
Quarterback Justin Herbert, the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year, threatens in various ways. He doesn’t bring the decades of experience and treatment to hasten his release, which Tom Brady beat the Dallas pass rush with. Herbert has both a strong arm and athleticism to extend games.
“He’s a guy who can really tear the ball up,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said Monday afternoon from Cowboys headquarters. “Outside of the pocket he’s a player who can really create on the move, much like Dak does, where he comes out and how he can tear the ball into the field. So when you have a player who can do that’s almost like defending two games. ”
Defenders need to be prepared to counter both a designed call and a move in progress for five, six, seven seconds, Quinn said.
“We have to defend games longer when you defend a quarterback like that,” Quinn said.
That extra effort has the potential to put on the defensive linemen, so Quinn chooses to use a deep lineman rotation to keep his players cool in the trenches. Without Gregory, the Cowboys would lose their centerpiece to complete Lawrence in passing situations. Fourth-year pro Dorance Armstrong would be among the top candidates to start in Gregory’s place, with snaps also likely shared between defensive ends Tarell Basham and Bradlee Anae.
Gregory’s status put the brakes on the Cowboys’ announcement that the team could now activate six-time Pro Bowl right-wing goalie Zack Martin from the reserve / COVID-19 roster. Martin, also vaccinated, had mild symptoms and did not set the protocol in time to face the Buccaneers. The Connor McGovern rescue swing man started in Martin’s place. Martin and tackle Brandon Knight, who was originally heralded as close, high-risk contact with Martin, joined the Cowboys’ active roster on Monday.
The Cowboys need help after losing right tackle La’el Collins to a five-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The team has yet to determine if they will keep Martin in right guard with Ty Nsekhe or Terrence Steele in right tackle, or if Martin will pitch for right tackle alongside McGovern in right guard. Discussions about keeping players in their most natural positions versus adapting the top five linemen at the same time are ongoing.
“We’re used to being flexible with our game plans, with our approach to things,” said offensive coordinator Kellen Moore of the loss of Collins, who will then be eligible to play on October 10. 31 in Minnesota unless it wins an appeal. “By being aware of all the confrontations that can arise in this game, we hope to put ourselves in a good situation.”
The Cowboys have designated wide receiver Michael Gallup (calf sprain) for the injured reserve, sidelining him for at least three games.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.