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Cowboys DE Randy Gregory ready to take on leadership role in 2021

Though he’s taken a circuitous route to get here, defensive end Randy Gregory believes that he can be a leader for the young players on the Dallas Cowboys.

DALLAS — Randy Gregory has had an up-and-down journey in the NFL and on the Dallas Cowboys.

For the first time in his NFL career, the offseason has been smooth and straight; there are no suspensions hanging over his head. With no impending time bombs that could explode before Week 1 and cost him anywhere from four games to a whole season, the former 2015 second-round pick from Nebraska has been able to focus on the team and on football.

"This year I think for me is about really finding my role on this team, not as somebody who’s here then leaves for a certain amount of time," Gregory told reporters on Tuesday. "Somebody who’s here to stay and somebody that wants to be a leader not only vocally but on the field with my play. 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 so this year I’m trying to be a little bit more invested because I am one of the older guys in the group."

Although Gregory has logged just 38 career games, he is one of the elder statesmen along the defensive line with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and defensive tackle Brent Urban each having joined the league in 2014. At 29 years old, Gregory feels as though the younger players are looking up to him, even if he may not have that much game experience.

"Naturally 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," said Gregory. "That’s how you want to be as a player, so that’s the main thing for me now is just finding my role on this team and see how I can help out everyone."

Gregory provided the Cowboys with 21 combined tackles, four tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hits, 3.5 sacks, a pass breakup, and three forced fumbles after serving his six-game suspension to start 2020. It was the fifth straight season where the defensive end had to struggle with a suspension hanging over his head and his offseason availability similarly compromised.

As Gregory has battled with violations of the NFL's substance-abuse policy, he has had to equally manage such narratives. However, what is done is done, according to Gregory.

Said Gregory: "It’s in the past. 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. The coaches love me, the players love me – at least I think they do – and I’m not worried about all the other stuff. I’m doing a good job."

Gregory's father, a Cowboys fan and a football "geek," has told his 6-5, 242-pound son that he isn't getting much media coverage in the offseason, which Gregory considers a small victory in June.

"It’s a win, I would agree," said Gregory. "I think it’s played out, I think I understand why it’s being asked. I understand that. It takes time to build trust and that’s what I’m going to do."

Do you think Randy Gregory is due for a breakout campaign to lead the Cowboys’ defensive line? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.