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Randy Gregory's admission of a failed drug test complicates his NFL future

While it would be easy to take Randy Gregory at his word that he has left his struggles with marijuana in the past, teams considering drafting the standout Nebraska edge rusher should still hesitate.

That he failed a drug test at last month's scouting combine is not the most damning admission Randy Gregory made to the NFL Network's Kimberly Jones. It's this:

"I don't wake up every day saying, I'd really love to go smoke. It's not a struggle for me every day [now], it really isn't. In the past, hell yeah, it's been a struggle. It really has been. Now, I'm focused on my dream."

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Testing positive for marijuana in and of itself does not doom a player to a draft free fall. The specter of a deeper issue might. So while it would be easy to take Gregory at his word and accept that he has, indeed, left any drug "struggle" in the past, teams interested in the standout Nebraska edge rusher can and should give pause.

Sometimes, these things work out. Calvin Johnson, at the '07 combine, admitted to marijuana use, was taken No. 3 overall anyway and is currently in the midst of a possible Hall of Fame career; Justin Houston tested positive for marijuana at the combine, slipped all the way to the 70th pick and has made teams regret passing him over ever since.

Sometimes, they don't. Jacksonville overlooked Justin Blackmon's prior DUI arrest before taking him; Cleveland's still trying to figure out how to move forward with Johnny Manziel presently in rehab and Josh Gordon's future in limbo.

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Any off-field red flags, up to and including a combine misstep, generally are treated on a player-by-player and team-by-team basis. Those horror stories, though, linger for NFL scouts, GMs and coaches, particularly if they were involved in past failed gambles.

You can bet that at least a couple of teams have docked Gregory significantly for the failed drug test.

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"I was worse at Nebraska than I've ever been at any other time of my life," Gregory told Jones. "But I know how I am now. I think if teams really look at how I am now more so than the past, they'll see I'm making strides to get better, as a person and as a player. ...

"At the end of the day, it was my fault. I was being selfish. I was being stubborn. I felt like I could do things my way and it would work. And it didn't work."

Owning up to his maturity issues marks a positive first step for Gregory in this process. He no doubt told teams he met with at the combine the same: that he had learned from his mistakes and was working to better himself.

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But Gregory also will enter the NFL already on rather thin ice. Because of the failed test, he'll start his career in Stage 1 of the league's substance-abuse program. Another violation would push him to Stage 2, which carries with it the penalty of a fine and a four-game suspension. The punishments for repeated violations from there include a six-game suspension and, upon moving to Stage 3, as Gordon has, a one-year ban.

What happens to Gregory from here as a professional essentially boils down to how truthful he has been since failing that test. Does the incident really close a chapter in his life? Or is there more to all this—an ongoing, daily challenge for him to stay away from a substance banned by the NFL?

Only he knows the answer right now. Teams have about a month before the draft to figure it out, too.