Shane Ray and Randy Gregory: Same predicament, different outlook

CHICAGO—Shane Ray and Randy Gregory endured a similar fate. The talented pass rushers plummeted in the 2015 NFL Draft because of marijuana issues. “Shane is kind of like me. He made a bad choice.” Gregory told NFP. “I wish nothing but the best for him, hope he makes some smarter decisions in the future and I'm hoping he wishes the same upon me.” But while the humbled Gregory said he deserved what happened to him, the overly confident Ray was defiant. “I want to show those other teams that they made a huge mistake. … This does nothing but add fuel to the fire,” Ray said. “I will use this as motivation and I hope that I do see every one of those teams twice a year.” Ray, who had 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last year, vowed to demonstrate his ability that had many pegging him as a Top 10 pick last month before his issues, including an April 27 citation for weed possession, caused him to slide to No. 23 overall. “I will go over and beyond to show (the Broncos) that I am more than capable at dominating at whatever they ask me to do,” he said. “And when I say ‘dominating,’ I mean nothing less than that.” While the Denver-bound Ray seemed vengeful, Gregory took a more apologetic tone, saying he needed to mature. “I made a real dumb decision,” Gregory said, “that’s been the most embarrassing part of my life up to this point and I'm just ready to fix it.” After testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine, Gregory fell out of the first round and was the last player remaining in the green room when the Cowboys selected him 60th overall. Gregory’s Missed Appointments Magnifying concerns over his character, the Nebraska product was truant from meetings with several NFL clubs. “I know for a fact it hurt me with a few teams,” Gregory said. “I understood why I wasn’t picked high.” One meeting Gregory did attend was with the Cowboys a couple of weeks ago. He spent 40 minutes with head coach Jason Garrett, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and owner Jerry Jones. Gregory compared his heart-to-heart with Jones to a stern father-son conversation. Dallas has taken chances on several players with a litany of off-the-field problems, including wide receiver Dez Bryant and defensive end Greg Hardy. Gregory, who said he smoked weed to help cope with anxiety, told reporters he would be open to having a mentor/sponsor, which the Cowboys have used on players in the past. Unintentionally wearing Cowboys colors — a silver suit and blue tie — on Friday night, he may prove to be a great fit in Dallas. Having recorded just 28 sacks in 2014, the Cowboys ranked 26th in pass defense and are in desperate need of a pass rusher. “I feel like I could be a piece right there to get us to that next level, get us another championship,” Gregory said. “That's what makes it exciting.” Denver, on the other hand, does not have a hole at pass rusher. With DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, after whom Ray has modeled his game, the Broncos ranked in the top 10 in the NFL last year with 41 sacks. Rumors, though, circulated that the Ravens were targeting Ray, and the Broncos traded their first-round pick, fifth-round pick, 2016 fifth-round pick, and offensive lineman Manny Ramirez to the Lions to move up five spots to select the explosive 6-3, 245-pound Missouri star. Injury and Weight Issues Trading up was somewhat of a surprising move by Denver, considering Ray not only had the marijuana incident but also a toe injury that prevented him from working out at the Combine and had some speculating he would miss much of his rookie NFL season. Ray, though, said that his doctor told him he did not need surgery. The injury was only keeping him out because he did not have time to properly rehab it due to the hectic schedule of pro days, the Combine and flying to meet teams. He promised to be healthy enough to play Week 1 against the Ravens. “My toe’s fine,” Ray said. “I will be ready.” Like Ray, Gregory had a physical concern that caused him to fall in the draft. Though a gifted 6-5 pass rusher who had 17.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss the last two years, he was the lightest defensive lineman at the Combine at 235 pounds. Gregory said he currently weighed 239 to 240 pounds and that he needs to get up to 255. “One of the big things is obviously putting a little bit more mass on me,” he said. “I'm definitely going to get there.” Ray is going to get to play in Colorado, a state that legalized pot, something that made him the butt of social media jokes. “Just because I was cited for marijuana possession doesn't mean I'm this huge smoker or some huge drug addict,” Ray said. “That's not a worry for me.” Instead Ray is more concerned with proving himself to the other teams who passed on him before the Broncos selected him at No. 23. “They're all circled, you best believe,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with my situation that the Broncos decided to trade up to get me and give me a second opportunity. And I’m going to show them that this was the best decision they could’ve made.” Follow Jeff on Twitter @JFedotin

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