FRISCO, Texas – Rolando McClain's 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy comes to an end after the Dallas Cowboys play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, but the linebacker’s spot on the roster is hardly a given.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones appeared to close the door at least for a return to the club on Monday.
“His status will remain how it is today,” Jones said. “He will remain as he is today. And I don’t have a lot more to say about this.”
While Jones said he has had communication with McClain and the linebacker wants to play, coach Jason Garrett said he has not had any contact with McClain.
Asked why, Garrett said, “We’re focused on the players that we have here.”
Asked if it was safe to assume McClain would not be a Cowboy in 2016, Garrett said, “Again, we’re just focused on the guys who are on our football team right now.”
Per the terms of the substance-abuse policy McClain could be around the team during his suspension, taking part in meetings and working out but not practicing. Randy Gregory has been around the team since the start of the season in the same capacity as he serves a suspension that runs at least through Dec. 19.
The Cowboys have had a locker for Gregory, their second-round pick in 2015, at The Star, their new practice facility, but there is not one for McClain, who has remained in Alabama.
According to sources, a Cowboys scout recently saw McClain at the University of Alabama and he looked to be in good shape. However, he missed almost all of the Cowboys’ offseason program and was in woeful shape when he showed up for the mandatory minicamp in June and did not take part in any team drills.
McClain’s most-recent suspension was for testing positive for opiates. Sources confirmed the failed test was a result of “purple drank,” a combination of Sprite, cough syrup and codeine. He missed the first four games in 2015 because of a suspension. McClain is in Stage 3 of the substance-abuse program. According to the policy, a player is subject to a suspension of one year if he does not enter a treatment facility at the medical director's request. It's not clear whether that request was made of McClain.
McClain did not report to training camp and was placed on the reserve/did not report list .
McClain received a $500,000 signing bonus as part of the one-year deal he signed in the offseason that could have been worth $3 million. He missed out on a $250,000 workout bonus and has not been paid any of his $750,000 base salary. He also could have earned $93,250 in per-game roster bonuses if he was on the 46-man roster. He also had a chance to earn $1 million in play-time incentives.
One of the reasons cited by the Cowboys for their success this season has been their chemistry. The Cowboys have started Anthony Hitchens at middle linebacker and have used Justin Durant in their sub packages at times this season.
At his best, McClain would help a defense in need of a stout run defender, but he has not proven dependable off the field since before the Cowboys acquired him in 2014. Another violation of the substance-abuse policy would result in a one-year ban.