Enduring uncertainty is a life experience David Irving has grown accustomed to.
Having to adjust to adverse circumstances has defined Irving's up-and-down NFL career, including accepting that his current unemployment has stemmed from his actions.
Having been suspended multiple times for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, Irving is a free agent after playing last season for Las Vegas. He was reinstated before the Raiders cut him this offseason when he didn't regularly attend workouts.
An activist for cannabis who opened a business focused on CBD-related products and who recently made a foray into acting in a movie filmed in Arkansas called "Pursuit" with actors John Cusack and Emile Hirsch, Irving still wants to play football again.
And he's eligible to do so. For the first time in years, Irving is in compliance with the league's programs.
The former Dallas Cowboys starter wants to write a compelling comeback story. The 6-foot-8, 275-pound pass rusher has been training diligently in Las Vegas at Phase 1 Sports with Tripple Hale and Mike Waters, and his agent has been talking with multiple NFL teams.
When he’s been healthy and eligible to play, Irving, 28, is a dynamic pass rusher capable of producing big games.
“I want to show people who David Irving is,” Irving said in a telephone interview. “I’m a fighter. I want to dominate, and it’s a different mindset. When we’re in the locker room and some guys are turning up and screaming and talking crazy, I’m sitting there with my headphones on listening to music with tears in my eyes because I can’t wait to get on the football field and impose my will. I love the fact that I can be a three-technique at my size and weight and get past two 350-pound guys double-teaming me who can squat twice as much as me and I put them on their ass and make the play. That’s what I live for.
“The workouts have been going great. Everything I’m learning, kung fu, jiu-jitsu, boxing, all of my great training at Phase 1, that’s all helping with my movement and everything you do on a football field. I’m the lightest I’ve been since I was 19 years old and I’m feeling explosive and I’m ready for anything that comes my way. I’m ready to play, and I can’t wait to play football again.”
Cut by the Raiders in May, Irving emphasized that he is eligible to be immediately signed by teams after the league reinstated him in October.
"I've done the necessary work," said Irving, who was indefinitely suspended in 2019 by the NFL before his reinstatement last year. "I'm compliant with all of the NFL's policies."
North Carolina-based attorney Daniel Moskowitz, of the law firm Offit Kurman, successfully represented the NFL player in the reinstatement process as he has previously done for others, including Randy Gregory and Daryl Washington. Moskowitz affirmed that Irving is ready to go.
“Obviously, the NFL programs are confidential, so I can’t get into any specifics, but I can say that David is in the best standing he’s been in since he was a rookie with the league’s programs," Moskowitz said. "David pretty much has a clean slate. That’s very exciting for him. The sky is the limit because there’s no reinstatement to deal with.
“Last year, David had an adjustment period after he was reinstated in the middle of the season, and it’s a lot as far as the physical aspect of getting in shape after being away from the game. This year, David should be able to hit the ground running. That’s of great importance to his success. I think the biggest thing is when you’ve gone through past situations like David you’re weighed down by peripheral stressors. He has remedied them. From an emotional and physical standpoint, I really think he’s in the best place he’s been in years.”
A former NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Green Bay Packers in 2016 when he forced three fumbles, recovering one, with one sack and a pass deflection in 19 defensive snaps, Irving said a major motivating force in his life is his eight-year-old daughter, Zoë.
“She’s my why,” said Irving, who played collegiately at Iowa State. “I want to be able to set my daughter up so she can have options I never had in life. I was forced into football, basically. Growing up in Compton, we didn’t have money for school. It was either get a scholarship or go to the Marines like my dad. Being 6-foot-8 helped, and I took this route. I’ve learned to accept that and I keep leveling up. I don’t want to put my daughter in that situation. I want my daughter to be able to choose her future. My why has changed over the years as I’ve matured.”
Irving has recorded 12.5 career sacks, five forced fumbles, 60 tackles, 17 for losses, and 30 quarterback hits in 39 career games with 10 starts.
Hale expressed confidence that Irving is ready to show what he can do again.
“David has leaned up, and he’s in shape,” Hale said. “He’s so long and so explosive that it’s kind of like if you did ‘Create a Player’ on the Madden video game. He’s about 275, and he’s got explosiveness in his legs and upper body strength. It’s pretty impressive. He’s so long. He can cover so much ground running or jumping.
“When he walks in the room, you just notice the guy. He’s an absolute monster. To see the way that he can move, it’s just impressive. He’s definitely going to show his ability for sure. He’s a very easygoing, funny guy, always smiling and laughing. He’s just a good guy who’s good to be around and has good energy.
Originally signed by the Kansas City Chiefs after going undrafted, Irving wants to prove that he can provide a team with a reliable run-stopping and pass-rushing presence. In 2017 in eight games after missing four due to a suspension and four due to a concussion, he recorded a career-high seven sacks with 19 quarterback pressures and 12 tackles for losses.
“David is an exciting player,” said Steve Weinberg, Irving’s agent. “He’s one of those guys they call a physical freak. He has freakish athletic ability. David is looking forward to getting into a training camp and maximizing his abilities. I think this is going to be a breakthrough year for him.
“Numerous teams have said he has the talent of a perennial Pro Bowl player. He’s extra motivated. He’s on a mission to show the NFL that he can be the player most people think he can be. I think there’s going to be a team that will sign him and they’re going to get an absolute steal.”
Irving is remaining patient as he awaits another opportunity. He feels like he still has a lot to give back to the game and a lot of intensity to apply at the line of scrimmage.
“This is a game about toughness,” Irving said. “This is a gladiator’s sport.”
– Written by Aaron Wilson, who is a member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for the Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.