Suspended all of last season and reinstated only a matter of days before training camp started, Gregory played in 10 first-half snaps in Saturday’s 21-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium.
“I haven’t played an actual game in basically two years,” said Gregory, who did not record a tackle or pressure. “Practice is one thing. Conditioning’s one thing. Personal training’s one thing, but actually going out there and be with my guys, and at least attempt to make some plays, it felt real good.”
The Cowboys took Gregory in the second round of the 2015 draft despite the off-field concerns that saw his draft stock take a hit. After a strong start in the preseason, an ankle injury kept him out of four games and he did not record a sack in the 12 games he played. He has one sack for his career.
Gregory has played in only two of the last 32 regular-season games because of multiple violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. He opened training camp on the non-football injury list as the Cowboys wanted him to work on his conditioning after such a long absence.
He took part in just four full practices during the Cowboys’ time in Oxnard, California, but quickly showed he was ready for at least some preseason action. In one practice, he recorded two sacks in a three-play span.
“Once we saw him practice we anticipated him being able to play this game,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Certainly we want him to play the whole time. We want to be deliberate with him and he went through all the steps we wanted him to go through.”
After the final practice in Oxnard on Thursday, Gregory said he does not feel like he has made the 53-man roster yet. Gregory said he hopes to play more Aug. 26 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Gregory said he was not reflective about his journey back to the Cowboys before kickoff.
“I think if I did that it would have kind of taken my mindset away from the game,” Gregory said. “I think I did it the right way, just coming in here like a professional and get ready, be out there early, warm up and then carry on as I would any other game.”
Gregory has impressed his teammates in his comeback.
“It’s unbelievable to see what he’s overcome, how he’s played,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “If you watched him in practice this week, it was so fun to see his talent on the football field and his joy for the game. He’s worked really hard to get healthy. He’s been an inspiration for us and to see him practice is something very special.”
Johnson sustained the concussion when he landed hard on the turf while defending a pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to Marquise Goodwin on the first series of the game. The cornerback was down on the ground while he was checked out by the training staff after he landed on the sideline. Johnson was eventually able to walk off the field under his own power and was taken to the locker room.
The 2015 first-round pick is expected to start alongside cornerback Johnathan Joseph this season. Johnson has dealt with injuries in each of the past two seasons and has played in just 18 out of 32 regular-season games.
In 12 games in 2017, Johnson had 45 combined tackles and two passes defended. According to Pro Football Focus, he was ranked 121st out of 121 eligible cornerbacks last season.
Martin was hurt on a seven-yard run by Rod Smith when it appeared the helmet of a Cincinnati defender hit Martin’s knee. Martin limped off the field and spent a good portion of time in the medical tent before heading to the locker room.
Martin, who signed a six-year extension this offseason that included $40 million in guaranteed money, has not missed a game in his first four seasons. He has been named to the Pro Bowl each season and twice has been named a first-team All Pro.
Kadeem Edwards replaced Martin Saturday. Frederick is not playing because of a series of stingers that led him to get a second opinion during the week by specialist Dr. Robert Watkins.
The Cowboys also lost starting safety Xavier Woods with a hamstring injury. He got hurt while nearly intercepting an Andy Dalton pass in the second quarter. The Cowboys are thin at the safety spot and their other starter, Jeff Heath, is working through a low ankle sprain.
MINNEAPOLIS — Sloppy play, penalties and injuries marred the Vikings in a 14-10 preseason loss to the Jaguars, the latter of which might have a lasting effect as the team prepares for Week 1.
Minnesota had six players exit Saturday’s game with injuries and not return. Three players were carted off the field, including defensive end Ade Aruna (knee), offensive lineman Cedrick Lang (lower leg) and fullback Johnny Stanton (lower leg).
Cornerback Mackensie Alexander sustained an ankle injury in the first quarter and was listed as questionable to return. Center Josh Andrews injured his ankle at the beginning of the third quarter on an incomplete pass and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. After rookie Jeff Badet caught a 13-yard pass from Kyle Sloter in the fourth quarter, the receiver took a vicious hit to the head that put him in the concussion protocol.
A handful of these injuries appear to be serious, as coach Mike Zimmer said he expects several players will be lost for the season, noting postgame that Lang will undergo surgery.
“The list was so long I don’t remember the exact number so I’ll just wait until we put them on IR,” Zimmer said.
Aviante Collins started in place of Hill before moving to left tackle and subsequently left guard. Cornelius Edison, who started the game at center, had to come back in after Andrews got hurt and played a near full game.
Players have cited the ‘next man up’ mentality throughout training camp as injuries have forced the Vikings to continue to shuffle personnel across all positions except left tackle. Building continuity while continually adjusting for new personnel has proven to be the most challenging part of the process.
“We have to get on the stick here pretty quick,” Zimmer said. “I think Remmers will be back next week, which will be good. I think Elflein has a chance to get back here pretty soon. That will help. I don’t know about Rashod yet so we’ll see. It’s tough but we’re not the only ones in the league to be having these issues, I’m sure. We just have a few more than we should have at this point in time. That’s life.”
Playing behind a rotating offensive line is something quarterback Kirk Cousins has grown used to over the years. Injuries in Washington in 2017 forced the Redskins to use 36 different offensive line combinations.
“You learn to roll with the punches in this league,” Cousins said. “You can’t start to say ‘Well that’s not how we drew it up, so now we’re not going to plan on doing great things,’ so you just play and take whatever’s thrown at you, and that’s the only way you have a chance to have success. I think that the players who have come in in place of some of our starting offensive linemen have done a good job and have been ready to play. Coach Flip is doing a really good job with the game plan and play-calling to accentuate our strengths and try to protect us from some of our weaknesses, and that’s what a great play-caller does.”
In his second game with Minnesota, Cousins went 3-of-8 for 12 yards and finished with a 45.8 passer rating. A far cry from his crisp performance in Minnesota’s preseason opener in Denver, Cousins played four series to start the game, his closest drive ending at Jacksonville’s 27-yard line which forced the Vikings to settle for a 44-yard field goal.
Cousins had his day end after one series to open the second quarter following an incomplete pass to Stefon Diggs on third down. As a team, Minnesota’s offense finished Saturday 0-for-12 on third down.
“I think he can play a lot better,” Zimmer said of Cousins.
Added Cousins: “Probably not the worst thing in the long run to realize we’ve got a lot of work to do. If you want to call it a wake-up call, that’s fine, but it’ll get us ready to go when we get back on Monday.”
Running back Latavius Murray‘s struggles with ball security were incredibly uncharacteristic for a player who fumbled eight times over the first four years of his career and lost only two. Murray fumbled two times on his first five carries.
The lone bright spot on offense centered around the competition for the No. 3 running back. Mike Boone rushed 13 times for 91 yards and a touchdown, rebounding after an up-and-down outing in Denver last week.
“To be honest with you, I’m glad we didn’t win that game today because we didn’t deserve to win,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t play well enough and we’re going to get back to work and get going here.”
PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ tight end depth is tight, at least for now.
Third-year tight end Xavier Grimble underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb/wrist area, according to a source. Grimble hopes to return for Week 1 but will most likely miss the rest of the preseason. He suffered the injury in a practice and did not play in Thursday night’s loss at Green Bay.
Grimble has 16 catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns from 2016-17 as the team’s No. 3 option at the position.
Starter Vance McDonald missed most of training camp with a foot issue that will likely keep him out of Saturday’s preseason matchup against Tennessee, leaving Jesse James as the only healthy tight end with an NFL catch. Free agent pickup Bucky Hodges is a good pass-catcher but considered raw as a blocker, while Pharoah McKever is an undrafted free agent and Christian Scotland-Williamson is a rugby star turned practice-squad project as part of the NFL’s international program.
Coach Mike Tomlin labels all team injuries as “day-to-day” and doesn’t have a concrete plan for tight end distribution because of the time of year.
“It’s just those that are available, developing, working their skills relative to their position,” Tomlin said. “We’re very much still in training camp mentality.”
The Steelers have big plans for tight ends in new coordinator Randy Fichtner’s offense. Tight ends are lining up wide more often, for example.
“We’re expecting to grow as a position, make the most of the year,” said James, who led all Steelers tight ends with 43 catches in 2017.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz will resume 11-on-11 team work when the defending Super Bowl champions return to practice Sunday, according to team sources.
Wentz was given the green light after meeting with the team’s medical staff and coach Doug Pederson, among others, a source said.
It is not a surprising development, inasmuch Wentz said Tuesday he hoped to return to 11-on-11 work and Pederson acknowledged a decision was forthcoming.
Wentz’s progression is not a response to backup Nick Foles‘ shoulder strain suffered in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Patriots, sources said. Foles injury is not serious and he still could practice some this week.
Nevertheless, Wentz has not been ruled out from opening the 2018 season as the Eagles starter against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 6. He has been rehabbing his left knee that underwent surgical repair of a torn ACL and LCL that was injured in a week 14 win over the Los Angeles Rams last Dec. 10.
Wentz himself last week it will be “close” as to whether he will be ready for the season opener. It will be a collaborative decision by the organization, including team doctors and owner Jeffrey Lurie. There are no plans to put him on injured reserve, which means he will be on the 53-man roster to open the season.
While the belief has been the Eagles will err on the side of caution with Wentz for long-term benefit, his progress has been notable both in rehab and in drills. He participated in 11-on-11 work when training camp first began but the Eagles decided the wiser course was to limit him to 7-on-7 and individual drills because he also had the demands on specific rehab for the knee.
There is no plan for Wentz to play in preseason games but that would not preclude him from opening the season as the starter, a source said, once he medically cleared for physical contact. Like all quarterbacks in practice, Wentz will be off limits from defenders making physical contact with him. However, team work still raises the stakes because players practice at full speed.