NFL Suspends Cowboys LB Without Pay for PED Violation

Dallas Cowboys

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Dallas Cowboys reserve linebacker Luke Gifford was suspended two games without pay Tuesday for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, according to multiple reports.

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A strict special-teamer when active, Gifford has recorded just three tackles across six games this season. He’s logged one (1) defensive snap, in Week 5 against the Giants, compared to 121 special teams snaps (43.68%).

The 25-year-old joined Dallas in 2019 as an undrafted free agent but quickly gained an injury-prone reputation; Gifford missed time with a high-ankle sprain, sustained in the preseason finale, before fracturing his arm last December.

Gifford, who’s signed through 2021, will miss the Cowboys’ annual Thanksgiving home contest (vs. Washington) and their ensuing Thursday Night Football road tilt with the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 3.

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Statement on Coach’s Medical Incident

The Cowboys have identified head strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul as the staff member who suffered a severe medical emergency Tuesday.

In a statement released via the team, Dallas disputed reports that Paul, 54, passed away, confirming instead that he’s hospitalized and undergoing further tests.

“Shortly before 7:30 a.m. this morning, Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul experienced a medical emergency. Paul was immediately treated by Cowboys medical personnel and transported to a local hospital by ambulance. As per the Paul family, Markus is in the process of undergoing further medical tests and additional information will be made available at the appropriate time. The Dallas Cowboys players and staff attended a pre-scheduled 8:05 a.m. team meeting this morning and were told by head coach Mike McCarthy that today’s practice, scheduled for 11:30 a.m., would be cancelled. The organization extends its prayers and support to the Paul family, and asks for friends and followers of Markus, his family and the team to keep them in their thoughts and prayers.”

A former NFL player for the Chicago Bears (1989-1993) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993), Paul began his professional coaching career as a strength and conditioning assistant with the New Orleans Saints in 1998.

He bounced from the New England Patriots (2000-04), New York Jets (2005-06), and New York Giants (2007-2018) before landing the job with Dallas in 2018. He was promoted to the head position this year, replacing Mike Woicik.

Jaylon Utters Improbable Playoff Prediction

Gifford’s partner in the LB corps, starter Jaylon Smith, is feeling some type of way following Dallas’ upset victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11. Smith not only projected a playoff berth but feels the club will go undefeated along the way.

“We’re going to go 7-0,” he told reporters after the game.

The Cowboys are slated to close the 2020 campaign as such: vs. Washington, at Baltimore, at Cincinnati, vs. 49ers, vs. Eagles, at Giants. Pulling off Smith’s prediction probably ensures the Cowboys, with a record of 9-7, win the NFC East and host at least one postseason contest.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL