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Appeal of suspended Dallas Cowboys star La’el Collins focuses on absences

Aug 21, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) celebrates a first quarter touchdown with tackle La'el Collins (71) against the Houston Texans at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 21, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) celebrates a first quarter touchdown with tackle La’el Collins (71) against the Houston Texans at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Suspended Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La’el Collins is pointing to excused absences from the team as a reason he missed drug tests in his appeal, ESPN is reporting.

Collins, 28, was suspended without pay last week for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. NFL Network reported that Collins was suspended for missing drug tests.

The five-game ban begins with Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

According to ESPN, his appeal claims that Collins had valid reasons for several of the missed tests.

He reportedly missed a November 2020 test when players had been sent home early to mourn the death of strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul.

A second missed test occurred while he was attending an uncle’s funeral, with permission from the team.

He reportedly missed another test last October on a day that he was scheduled to have hip surgery and was flagged for codeine after the fact, despite being prescribed the drug after the surgery.

The report also says that Collins hasn’t tested positive for marijuana over the previous 18 months.

Collins started at right tackle in the season-opening 31-29 road loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played 99 percent of the snaps.

After the suspension, his agent issued a strongly worded statement criticizing the NFL’s decision.

“We are extremely disappointed in how the NFL has handled this entire matter from trampling on Mr. Collins’ rights to prematurely releasing the information knowing a timely appeal was filed to intentionally (mislead) the court at the hearing,” agent Peter Schaffer said in a statement. “The extent and effort the NFL went to accomplish its ends is appalling.”

Unless he wins the appeal, Collins won’t be allowed to return to the active roster until Oct. 18, the day after the Cowboys’ Week 6 game at New England. The Cowboys have a bye in Week 7, so he will not be eligible to play again until the Week 8 contest at Minnesota on Oct. 31.

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Ty Nsekhe and Terence Steele are the primary backups at left and right tackle, respectively, but Nsekhe has been ruled out with a non-COVID illness.

Collins signed a five-year, $50 million contract extension in September 2019. Undrafted out of LSU in 2015, he has started 62 of his 63 games with the Cowboys. He missed all of last season with a hip injury that required surgery.

–Field Level Media