Eagles

Can't win playing race card in Cooper vs. Jackson

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Can't win playing race card in Cooper vs. Jackson

Almost a week after the Eagles dropped the hammer on the NFL’s most prolific deep threat, people are still scratching their heads, still trying to make sense of why Chip Kelly abruptly cut the cord with Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson.

The franchise’s continued silence outside of a cursory statement that explained, well, nothing has only fueled some out-there theories about the hidden intentions behind coach Chip Kelly’s decision to nix Jackson from the roster.

One widespread opinion that grows louder by the day is that the Eagles are somehow guilty of racial preference, having severed ties with Jackson just a few weeks after handing wide receiver Riley Cooper a five-year deal with $10 million in guaranteed money.

Cooper, if you didn’t know, is white. Until this past summer, when the world learned via social media that he flung a racial slur at a black security officer while attending a country music concert, Cooper was barely a household name in the Delaware Valley.

Jackson, who is black, has also encountered off-field issues. Some of them were detailed in an NJ.com story last week that outlined the receiver’s association with friends who are alleged gang members, but Jackson had already cultivated a reputation for irking management with immaturity and an ugly contract dispute.

Now that Jackson has freely walked to the division-rival Redskins, fingers are pointing at the Eagles’ braintrust -- Kelly, general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeff Lurie -- accompanied by accusations of racial bias.

Seahawks corner Richard Sherman, who grew up with Jackson in Los Angeles, seemed to echo the sentiment when he suggested, in a piece for MMQB, that the Eagles showed less tolerance for a punk receiver than a known racist.

“What did they do to Riley Cooper, who, if he’s not a racist, at least has 'ties' to racist activity?” Sherman wrote. “They fined him and sent him to counseling. Commit certain crimes in this league and be a certain color, and you get help, not scorn.”

It’s a convenient argument for those still struggling to come to grips with Jackson’s departure and subsequent signing with the rival ’Skins. But it’s not a rational debate. It’s baseless and groundless, mainly because it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison more rooted in resentment and anger than actual logic.

Instead of comparing Jackson’s situation to Cooper’s, shouldn’t the current regime’s history of dealing with troubled players come under the microscope?

If the Eagles are more tolerant of transgressions of white players, why were they the first team to reach out to Michael Vick and then sign the tarnished superstar out of prison, and then re-sign him to a $100 million contract just three years later?

If the Eagles treat black players with legal issues more harshly than white ones, why didn’t they punish Jason Peters for his drag racing arrest last offseason? Charges were eventually reduced and Peters paid a fine. Why was Peters -- who has been arrested twice since joining the team -- given a monster extension last month, making him the team’s highest-paid player?

LeSean McCoy intentionally sought to embarrass and humiliate the mother of his child on Twitter last offseason, inviting his followers to chastise her while Kelly was still decorating his office. All Kelly did was give McCoy the most carries of his career and repeatedly express his admiration for his Pro Bowl halfback.

Last I checked, McCoy’s not on the trading or cutting block.

Juqua Parker, Akeem Jordan, Mike Patterson, Stacy Andrews, King Dunlap -- just a few former Eagles who were involved in minor legal trouble during their careers, each one black and each having their paychecks authorized by Lurie. None was disciplined or abruptly kicked off the team without explanation.

If you want to bury the Eagles for their awkward handling of the situation and mysterious silence since Friday, go ahead. It’s fair and justifiable. The charade Kelly staged last Wednesday in Orlando at the owners meetings warranted every roll of the eyes it drew.

But to suggest that race played a part in Kelly’s decision to keep Cooper and remove Jackson is to ignore the basic fact that Cooper is a one-time offender who was welcomed back into the locker room by several of his teammates and Jackson showed a repeated pattern of bothersome behavior.

Jackson gave former coach Andy Reid one migraine after another and the team still rewarded him in 2011 with an extension that paid out $18 million in guaranteed money. How many teammates have publicly rallied against the decision to jettison Jackson? Still waiting for one.

If another racial slur ever drips from Cooper’s mouth, the organization should kick him to the curb immediately. If they don’t, it’s fair to play the race card.

Until then, the dots don’t connect.

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

With a 5-1 record, the Eagles sit all alone atop the division and conference standings, and are tied for the best mark in the NFL. Their quarterback was recently given the best odds of winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award. So, yes, right now, a trip to the Super Bowl seems to be very much on the table for this squad.

But take it from LeGarrette Blount, somebody who’s won a couple of world championships — the Eagles can’t afford to get caught up in the hysteria right now.

“We could lose 10 in a row,” Blount said Tuesday. “We could go 6-10, so we don't want to jump the gun, jump to conclusions. We want to make sure we take it week by week, day by day, keep a level head and make sure we're going to be ready for whoever the next opponent is.”

Blount is one of only five Eagles players with a Super Bowl ring and the only member of the roster who owns multiple. The veteran running back won two of the last three years with the New England Patriots organization, which has been a perennial championship contender for the better part of the last two decades.

In other words, Blount knows better than anybody inside the Eagles’ locker room exactly what it takes to not only reach the big game and come away victorious but also how to sustain that success.

“You have to stay grounded,” Blount said. “You have to stay humble and make sure that all the guys that are in the building are on the same page. The coaches, the staff, everybody is on the same page, ignoring the noise, not worrying about what other teams are doing, what other teams' records are – just worrying about ourselves and locked into us.”

Easier said than done given the week the Eagles just had.

After going to Carolina and upending a tough Panthers squad on Thursday night, the Eagles watched as massive blows were being dealt to some of their stiffest competition over the weekend. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday, potentially crippling one of the NFC’s elites for the remainder of the season. And Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is awaiting word on the status of a six-game suspension that could seriously hamper the division rival.

But the noise can also be Eagles fans and their exponentially rising expectations, or a media that’s quick to point out any tiny flaw and raise controversy.

Blount has experienced the latter firsthand. Two weeks into the 2017 campaign, he finished a game without a carry — an Eagles’ loss — and was averaging 3.0 yards per carry going back to the preseason. The constant questions coming from reporters about his role easily could have become a distraction.

In the four weeks since, Blount has 344 yards on 56 carries for a 6.1 average. He never allowed the noise to get to him, instead becoming a big reason behind the ongoing four-game winning streak.

“We know what we've been doing to get to this point,” Blount said. “We know what it takes, so we just have to buy in to continue to do that, and continue to do every that it takes to continue winning games.

“A big part of it is just making sure you ignore the noise, don't listen to the outsiders, everything that is in house stays in house, and that you make sure and know that everybody that you see on TV isn't in your corner. Sometimes that can discourage the younger guys. Every now and then you'll hear them say, 'Oh, did you hear them say this,' or, 'Did you hear them say that? Or, 'Did you see this,' or 'Did you see that?'

“The big part is making sure that everybody ignores that stuff.”

Blount has been through extraordinary highs and lows in his football career and learned to maintain an even keel. But Eagles leadership has also done a tremendous job insulating players from the kinds of rumblings that have a tendency to create discord and cause entire seasons to come off the rails.

For evidence, look no further than rumors that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was trying to undermine head coach Doug Pederson — and how quickly such talk dissipated.

“The veteran groups have a lot to do with it,” Blount said. “I also think the coaches have a lot to do with it — keeping the guys grounded, keeping the guys to where we have to continue to come here and work if we want to continue the success.

“Most of the young guys, all of them have bought into the program, and everybody's locked in and knows their role and what they want to do.”

While Blount wouldn’t go so far as to draw parallels between the ways the Eagles and the Patriots handle distractions, it’s clear he’s been able to quickly establish a bond with his new teammates and coaches since signing in May.

“Every team is different,” Blount said. “I can't compare this team to the New England teams, or any other team. We have a really close-knit team. We believe in each other. Everybody loves each other and we have each other’s backs.”

As far as Blount’s performance on the field is concerned, the best may be still to come. He’s finished with at least 12 carries in each of the last four games and looked explosive and elusive while doing it. And with extra rest between a Thursday night game in Carolina and this Monday’s contest at home against Washington, the bruising runner said he’s feeling refreshed.

Most of all, it sounds as though Blount is in a great frame of mind and feeling comfortable with all of his surroundings. And if you’re looking for a great read on the Eagles’ situation through six games, just listen to the guy who’s come to expect confetti and parades in February.

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

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Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

NEW YORK -- Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott was granted another legal reprieve Tuesday night in the running back's fight to avoid a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

A New York federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the league's suspension, clearing Elliott to play Sunday at San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty's ruling came five days after a federal appeals court overturned a Texas court's injunction that had kept Elliott on the field.

Crotty granted the request for the restraining order pending a hearing before the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Failla, who is on vacation.

The NFL was ordered to appear before Failla on or before Oct. 30 to argue why the suspension should not be blocked by a preliminary injunction -- the next step in the legal process -- until the court can rule on challenges the players' union brought against the suspension.

"We are confident our arguments will prevail in court when they are taken up again later this month," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, was barred from the team's facility Tuesday as players returned from their off week. The NFL placed him on the suspended list Friday, a day after the league's favorable ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time.

Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation. Elliott denied the allegations under oath during his NFL appeal.

The suspension's announcement in August led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses.

In an opinion accompanying the ruling, Crotty agreed with the Texas judge who had backed the claims of Elliott's attorneys. Crotty wrote that Henderson's denial of testimony from Goodell and Thompson was significant because of credibility issues related to Thompson.

"In effect, (Elliott) was deprived of opportunities to explore pertinent and material evidence, which raises sufficiently serious questions," Crotty wrote.

Attorney Daniel Nash, arguing for the NFL, accused Elliott's legal team of seeking relief from courts in Texas to evade courts in New York and the effect of the April 2016 ruling that reinstated a four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal.

Nash warned Crotty that allowing the union to continue to delay the suspension would invite "every player who's suspended" to go to court for relief.

"They know under the Brady decision they have no chance of success. None," Nash said.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the players' union, said the harm to a player's short career was serious when a suspension is served.

"He can never get that back," Kessler said, arguing that the irreparable harm -- among issues of law considered before a temporary restraining order is granted -- faced by a player is much greater than harm claimed by the league when a suspension is delayed. In his opinion, Crotty agreed.

Nash suggested during the hearing that the union was overstating its claims of irreparable harm.

"In their view, an NFL player missing six games is the end of the world," he said.

Brady managed to delay his suspension for a year through the union's court challenges. He served it to start last season, when the Patriots went 3-1 without him and later won the Super Bowl.

Elliott's case shifted to New York after the appeals court ordered the Texas court to dismiss Elliott's lawsuit, which Judge Amos Mazzant did earlier Tuesday.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because Henderson had yet to decide on the running back's NFL appeal.

Elliott's legal team indicated it intended to pursue rehearing before a larger panel of the appeals court while also filing for the restraining order in the Southern District of New York.

The NFL filed in the New York court after Elliott's NFL appeal was denied because the league considers it the proper venue as the home of its headquarters and the site of the hearings before Henderson. It's also where the NFL won the Brady case in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Eagles visit Dallas in Week 11 on Sunday night, Nov. 19. They host the Cowboys in Week 17 on New Year’s Eve.