49ers’ Randy Gregory believes personal problems are in past, looks to put NFL on notice

Edge rusher Gregory practices for first time with 49ers after being acquired on the cheap from Denver

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Randy Gregory’s problem has never been playing on the edge in a football sense.

Almost everyone agrees he is an explosive, twitchy athlete who was born to rush the passer at 6-foot-5 and 242 pounds.

Living on the edge in everyday life has been more difficult, though Gregory has worked hard to resolve the plethora of issues that have stymied his ascension to being the type of player his skill set suggests.

Gregory, who was acquired from the Denver Broncos late last week for little risk, went through his first practice with the 49ers on Wednesday and was asked if he was ready to contribute right away against the host Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

“I don’t doubt it, but it’s not up to me,” Gregory admitted. “It’s practice, and the rest of the week will tell what I’m able to do out there.”

Gregory was signed as Von Miller’s heir apparent by the Broncos prior to the 2022 season, but he only played in 10 of 21 games due to knee and shoulder injuries. Under new coach Sean Payton, the Broncos traded him and a seventh-round draft pick to the 49ers in exchange for a sixth-round pick.

Furthermore, Denver will pay more than $10 million in salary for the remainder of the season, while the 49ers will be responsible for only a prorated portion of the veteran minimum. Salary increases to $13.745 million in 2024 and $12.745 million in 2025-26 are not guaranteed.

In Denver, it’s being dubbed “the worst free agent signing in franchise history.”

Gregory, who missed 52 of 96 games at one point due to four suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, has been out of trouble since October 2020. But, with the Broncos struggling on defense — Gregory didn’t record a tackle in a Week 3 loss to Miami — they decided to move on.

“You’ve seen how the NFL works. “I’d been there for two years and had two new employees,” Gregory explained. “They want to rebuild and get some new leadership.” “In the end, I wasn’t a part of that plan.”

Gregory, 30, believes he is in a good place in his personal life. He is married and has two children, ages seven and four, as well as a six-month-old baby.

“I have everything where it needs to be,” Gregory declared. “If I’m in good mental health, I’m pretty good. My family life is currently going well. The children are content and well-fed. I have a newborn, so I’m a little concerned. I want to be at home with him, but I understand what’s at stake, and I’m a big boy with a job to do.”

Gregory revealed in a 2021 interview with The Athletic that he used marijuana and psychedelics in his teens while still a standout at Hamilton Southeastern High in Fishers, Indiana. Following two years in junior college at Arizona Western, he began failing drug tests in college at Nebraska.

Despite his dominance at Nebraska, teams looked into his background, and he dropped from a potential top-10 pick to a second-round pick by Dallas. There were bouts of social anxiety disorder and large sums of money lost at casinos.

Gregory rebuilt his career in Dallas in 2020 and 2021, recording 9 1/2 sacks and being a disruptive presence in a 2021 playoff loss to the 49ers, earning a big contract in Denver.

Gregory was never regarded as a disruptive presence in the locker room.

“Randy was a great teammate, never gave anybody any problems,” 49ers cornerback Anthony Brown, a teammate in Dallas, said. “I never made a scene.” He gave it his all on the field, and I’m glad he’s here.”

“There is a warmth to Gregory,” Dallas owner Jerry Jones told The Athletic. He’s interesting and thoughtful. “He almost always smiles.”He’s one of the most popular Cowboys players in recent memory. Everyone is rooting for him.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan stated that “guys close to him and guys I know vouch for him,” and respected locker room leaders Trent Williams and Arik Armstead enthusiastically approved of the acquisition last week.

Gregory returned to Denver for the weekend and eagerly watched the 49ers’ 42-10 victory over his former team.

“I have a lot of guys I care about on that team in Dallas and staff I care about,” Gregory went on to say. “It was fun to sit there and watch it unfold because it was a rivalry game.” I spent time there, but now I’m on a new team and ready to win.”

When the 49ers got the ball and drove 75 yards for a touchdown to start the game, Gregory realized his old team was in big trouble against his new one.

“Me and my wife were talking about it, thinking the Cowboys look a little spooked,” Greg said. “That’s not bulletin board material, but it speaks to the level of intensity we came out with and carried out throughout the course of the game.”

Gregory’s previous transgressions have engendered skepticism, which he recognizes but hopes to overcome through his play.

“The big thing for me is trying to prove people wrong and put the NFL back on notice, doing the things I can do well and end up being a good teammate,” Gregory went on to say.

The 49ers are hoping Gregory can add another potential rusher off the edge to complement Bosa, who has 1 1/2 sacks through three games but is among the league leaders in pressures with 27, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Drake Jackson, a second-year player, has no sacks since recording three in the opener, and Clelin Ferrell, as expected, has shown the ability to set the edge but has no sacks as a pass rusher.

Gregory, like every other member of the 49ers defensive line, is excited about a rush-first, ask-questions-later scheme that doesn’t require much reading and reacting.

In addition, instead of playing with deficits in Denver, which limited pass rush opportunities, the 49ers have outscored opponents by 99 points in five games, giving them plenty of opportunities to rush the passer.

“I’m not coming in with any expectations other than to win,” he said. “I believe they understand what I do well. The most important aspect is getting me back to where they believe I am at my best. I’m going to take each day slowly, embrace everything, and learn everything I can. I’m ecstatic. I’m sure they are as well. “All I want to do is get on the field and play.”

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