Imagine if Rolando McClain showed up in Dallas today.
First, he’d probably show up over at Valley Ranch. Security would have to inform him that the team had moved to the new facility, The Star. Rolando would ask for directions and head 30 miles north to Frisco.
If he didn’t get distracted along the way, Rolando would arrive to find out that the team had already departed for Seattle for tonight’s game. Bemused and dejected, he would ask if he could at least check out the new facility. Someone would take pity on him and let him into The Star.
Rolando McClain would be in awe of the gorgeous new facility. He’d be so excited about being able to work here next week, then take a 10-week break, then come back in November.
Rolando would get to the locker room. Naturally, he’d start looking for his name and number. He’d look… and look… and look.
Eventually, Rolando would ask whoever was attending him what was up. Where was his locker? Had there been a clerical error?
Somewhere in that room is a locker for number 94, Randy Gregory. Both Gregory and Rolando McClain did not report to the Cowboys training camp. Neither is currently counted on the team’s roster.
One guy has a locker at The Star. The other doesn’t.
Some want to paint McClain and Gregory with the same broad stroke. They’re both “knuckleheads” or “druggies.” They’re both hurting the image of the Dallas Cowboys and should be released.
Clearly, the Cowboys don’t see it that way. Neither do I.
Rolando McClain is 27-years-old. This is his third team since entering the league in 2010. He’s been out of the NFL and come back more than once, even having retired at one point and missing all of 2013. He is facing 10-game suspension this year for using a “purple drank” and was reportedly severely out of shape when he showed up for the team’s summer practices.
Randy Gregory is still just 23-years-old and was a rookie last year. By all accounts, Gregory is a hard worker and was only held back last year by injuries. He faces his own suspension this year, still officially just four games, for repeated offenses with marijuana.
Both guys clearly have their issues and personal demons. However, there’s a very important line that has to be drawn.
Gregory has a drug problem. McClain has an attitude problem.
McClain’s two years in Dallas have been a testament to his incredible talent and yet a reminder of how much of it is wasted. He’s never been “all in” with the Cowboys. He doesn’t fight to play through minor injuries. One can only assume that his conditioning and preparation for games isn’t what it could be.
And yet, when on the field, Rolando McClain can still be an impact player. His natural gifts are that strong.
Dallas clearly sees that they can’t help McClain change who he is and how he views his football career. Rolando doesn’t care about his teammates. He doesn’t care enough to be here through camp and preseason and help guys like Anthony Hitchens and Mark Nzeocha be ready to play in his absence.
Rolando is a self-centered mercenary. He has been for two years. And now the Cowboys are done paying for his services.
If you’ve lived long enough to know the difference between 23 and 27, you know why the Cowboys may feel differently about Randy Gregory. You probably understand why he still has a locker.
Obviously, Gregory’s story may not have a happy ending. He could wind up on that tall scrap heap of former NFL players who wasted their talent and fell out of the league, be it to their own selfish interests, personal problems, or a mix of the two.
But right now, Gregory seems to be acknowledging his issues and is taking steps to work on them. That’s all the Cowboys can ask for now, and it’s enough to merit their continued support and the hope for a positive outcome.
One guy’s checked himself into rehab. The other’s completely checked out.
That’s why Randy Gregory still has a locker and Rolando McClain doesn’t. Seems perfectly logical to me.