Cowboys DE Randy Gregory to miss Falcons game as latest Dallas player to suffer multiweek calf strain

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FRISCO, Texas — The Cowboys’ calves are their Achilles heel.

And for the eighth straight game, they’ll be without a starter due to a calf strain.

Defensive end Randy Gregory, whose five sacks tie for a team high, suffered the strain during one-on-one drills in practice Wednesday. He will miss multiple weeks beginning with Sunday’s 1 p.m. ET game vs. the 4-4 Falcons.

“It’s unfortunate,” Mike McCarthy said Thursday morning from the Star. “You could clearly make the argument he’s one of our best players on defense. Yeah, very disruptive. Our team and our defensive players feed off his activity.

“Definitely feel for him. He’s having a heck of a year.”

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Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory (94) with a Gatorade towel over his head during an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Arlington, Texas.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory (94) with a Gatorade towel over his head during an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, in Arlington, Texas.

Gregory was at the Star on Thursday for rehabilitation. A person with knowledge of the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss medical information, described the injury to USA TODAY Sports as a “minor bump” in the road even as McCarthy deems it a multiweek injury. But 6-2 Dallas will now face Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and likely Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes next week, without its top defensive ends in Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence underwent surgery on a fractured foot after Week 1. He has yet to return from injured reserve.

Gregory missed the Cowboys’ Week 2 game vs. the Chargers while battling COVID-19 (he is vaccinated) but has proven productive and disruptive in the six games he’s been available.

Gregory had multi-sack performances in wins over the Panthers and Patriots. He has also forced two fumbles, recovered one, and registered 12 hits on quarterbacks. He has drawn several holding penalties from offensive linemen unable to ward off his power, speed and bend.

The Cowboys’ calf injuries date back to their opener against the Buccaneers, when starting receiver Michael Gallup suffered a strain. He has missed Dallas’ last seven games, but he has returned to practice and is expected to play this week vs. the Falcons.

Quarterback Dak Prescott strained his calf while throwing a game-winning touchdown in overtime at New England on Oct. 17. He rehabilitated through the Cowboys’ bye week the following week and was held out of Dallas’ 20-16 win at Minnesota. Prescott returned last week against Denver, struggling significantly with accuracy and receiver timing but showing no lingering limitations from his calf.

McCarthy said the trio of calf strains don’t point to a clear pattern. The affected players each play a different position, suffering them on moves the other one would not be prone to making. Two came in game situations, while Gregory’s occurred in practice. Prescott’s calf strain was on the same leg as the ankle he fractured and dislocated last October. Gregory has battled injuries this year including to his hip and knee.

McCarthy coordinates a regeneration day on Fridays in hopes of mitigating such injuries.

“I look at all these fatigue injuries the same,” he said. “I was always the head coach of a really young football team, pushing the limits of how much you can practice them and so forth. Fatigue injuries are always at the forefront of my thinking, so how – based on the drill, you always look at the video, how it happened, there’s no pattern to all the strains as far as how or when they’re happening.

“I look at them more as isolated incidents.”

Gregory has played more than 50% of defensive snaps in each active game this season, contributing on between 60 and 75% of snaps the last three games. The Cowboys will look most heavily to veteran free-agent signing Tarell Basham and fourth-year draft pick Dorance Armstrong. Rookie defensive end Chauncey Golston has increased his snaps recently as well, progressing more quickly than expected. And the last time the Cowboys were without both Lawrence and Gregory – in Week 2 vs. the Chargers – standout first-round rookie linebacker Micah Parsons played significant snaps as a pass rusher.

Will Parsons move up again?

McCarthy laughed at the game plan-specific question.

“Game starts at noon Sunday,” he said with a smile. “Don’t be late.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas Cowboys: Randy Gregory out multiple games with calf injury