One of the many reasons fans of the Dallas Cowboys were excited about the 2021 NFL season was the offensive line’s health. With everyone healthy, there was every reason to think the group could once again become a dominant force on game day.
But then Zack Martin was ruled out for Thursday’s season opener.
Without the line’s best player, fans worried that the line would struggle to protect Dak Prescott. While the protection was far from perfect, Prescott was not running for his life all night and got sacked just once. Running lanes were hard to come by (60 yards on 18 total carries), but that was expected.
Next week would be better; Martin would come back, and the line would be back to full strength. However, it appears that is not going to be the case after all. It now seems that the line will not be back to full strength until Week Eight, when the Cowboys face the Minnesota Vikings.
Why? Because La’el Collins has been suspended for the next five games.
The news began making the rounds online Friday morning about the suspension—which was for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. According to reports, he did not test positive for anything. No, the suspension was for missing drug tests.
However, the league’s drug policy does not mandate a suspension just because someone misses a test. A player must miss at least four tests or fail to cooperate with testing on four occasions to earn a suspension.
The details of what Collins is alleged to have done have not been released. But since an arbitrator ruled against Collins when he appealed the suspension, it sounds like he did more than miss just one test.
Neither Collins nor the agent he hired to handle the appeal have addressed the cause of the suspension. But the agent, Peter Schaffer, was critical of how the NFL has handled matters in a recent statement:
“We are extremely disappointed in how the NFL has handled this entire matter from trampling on Mr. Collins’s rights to prematurely releasing the information knowing a timely appeal was filed to intentionally misleading the court at the hearing. The extent and effort the NFL went to accomplish its ends is appalling.”
The Cowboys have struggled to get their first-team offensive line on the field in recent years. When they have not had their best five on the field, the overall play of the offense has suffered. With Collins now getting suspended for the next five games, it does not look good for this year, either.
Yes, they could have the band back together in Week Eight. But that is assuming that Tyron Smith can stay healthy that long. Smith has not played in an entire season since 2015.