FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys tackle La'el Collins does not regret fighting a suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy that cost him roughly $2 million, five games and, at least temporarily, his starting position.
"Just for me, personally, I felt like I had to, just because it was kinda unfair, being a guy that didn't fail any drug tests last year," Collins said. "The bigger picture was, I didn't feel like I did anything wrong. I missed a few tests here and there, but to everything that came along with that, I just felt like it wasn't fair. But it is what it is now. I felt like I had a good case. But, it didn't shake out that way. At the end of the day, I fought for what I believed in and the pieces fell where they fell. But just looking forward to getting back and playing football and being a good teammate and helping the guys wherever I can."
Collins took his case to the court system but a federal judge upheld the NFL's penalty. The initial suspension was knocked down to two games, but based on a number of missed tests and an accusation of bribing the drug tester, the league suspended him for five games.
"All I will say about that is I have no reason to bribe a drug collector. Never have, never will," Collins said. "It was nothing like that. It started off as a joke among a few guys and went the wrong way. Like I said, there was nothing in my system that would have led me to try to get out of testing. I knew I was getting tested randomly. I was being tested a lot, 10-plus times a month sometimes. There was no way getting around that and still isn't. It is what it is."
Terence Steele took over for Collins after the season opener and will remain in the spot for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. Coach Mike McCarthy has credited Steele's level of play in the Cowboys' five-game win streak and believes in offensive line continuity.
Collins took turns at tackle and left guard during practice this week. He started at left guard in 2015 and 2016 but has played exclusively right tackle since. He will be active in a backup role Sunday. Had Collins accepted the two-game penalty, it's likely he would have returned as a starter.
"I'm a team player. I'm all about the team," Collins said. "In a way, I felt like I did everything I could to avoid any suspension or anything. That was my whole intention on fighting it. Sometimes, things just don't work out the way you want them to. But you can't control that. What I did in the meantime was work out, focus on my craft and help the guys how I could and when I could. I'm proud of them. I'm proud of the way Terence is playing. He's playing his ass off. He shows up to work like a pro every day."