Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory made his return to the field last week after serving an indefinite ban from the NFL, his forth suspension since 2015 for substance abuse. He was away for all of the 2019 season, during which he saw a psychologist and worked at an Amazon warehouse.
In an interview with USA Today Sports, Gregory detailed the experience and how he is addressing his social anxiety disorder with the goal of staying on the field.
Fourth suspension caused height of anxiety
The fourth suspension caused Gregory’s anxiety to hit a peak in fall of 2019. His wife had their second child and he felt unable to provide for his family because of his job loss.
“I was like, ‘If football isn’t here, then what am I?’” Gregory told USA TODAY Sports. “‘What am I going to do? What do I have to offer? Will my friends and my family still see me the same way? Am I a failure?’ There’s a lot of things I had to figure out.”
Peter Schaffer, Gregory’s agent, told USA Today Sports that Gregory has social anxiety disorder that makes him uncomfortable in certain situations. He dealt with that by smoking marijuana or avoiding things altogether. He also reportedly focuses on negative thoughts more than most, an issue he worked on this past year.
Gregory first met with a psychologist, Dr. Dina Hijazi, in 2018. Hijazi said when they met she assessed him to be an introvert and “an impulsive, reactionary person entrapped in a life so chaotic it would be difficult to elicit joy naturally.” The social situation of a locker room was unsettling for him.
His insurance was terminated while he was off a roster, but the NFL worked with him to resume treatment in February, per USA Today Sports. He feels “a lot more positive about myself,” he said, which is something he never would have thought in the previous years. He’s working on relaxation techniques and self-talk mantra.
Gregory worked at Amazon during suspension
While he was away from the NFL last season, he worked at an Amazon warehouse in a North Texas suburb making $15.50 an hour doing inventory, loading trucks and coordinating efficient delivery routes.
He told USA Today Sports he was grateful and “happy I was making an honest living” while “waking up every day with some kind of purpose.”
Gregory received an indefinite suspension in February 2019 for violating the substance abuse policy and applied for reinstatement to the league in March. It was granted on Sept. 4 and he returned to practices on Oct. 7. His first game was a loss last week to the Philadelphia Eagles. The 2015 second-round pick played about half of the defensive snaps and had four tackles.
Gregory hopes to avoid another suspension
Gregory fell in the draft due to a failed drug test and was suspended in 2016, only playing two games, then was suspendedagain in 2017. He has dealt with depression, he told ESPN in 2018, and attended a Texas rehabilitation clinic that year.
After what ended up being an 18-month suspension, he was given conditional reinstatement in July 2018. The NFL noted in its statement “continued compliance” with the drug policy is required and the league made arrangements for clinical resources for Gregory.
Both the Cowboys and Gregory hope he can manage things and stay on the field. He continues his work with Hijazi, has support from coaches, and his parents moved to North Texas to be with him.
“Any person that knows my situation or knows people dealing with my situation knows this is not a straight line to success,” Gregory said, via USA Today Sports. “You’re going to take some detours, you’re going to have some hiccups. I’ve had a lot of those. I’ve been in this same spot before in the past where people are questioning whether or not I could stay on the straight and narrow.
“My anxiety is going to be something I deal with on a day-to-day basis. It’s not something I can really X out of my life.
“But I really truly feel like I have all the tools in place, all the resources and most importantly the right mindset to stay available.”
More from Yahoo Sports: