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NFL AM: Murray Hoping to Fly Out of Philly?

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It appears one year may have been more than enough for DeMarco Murray and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Despite a coaching change that seemed likely to bridge the gap between the 2014 rushing champion and the team that under-utilized him last season, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday that Murray and the Eagles are headed towards an offseason stare-down over his role in the Philadelphia running game going forward.

After leading the world in rushing during the 2014 season with the Dallas Cowboys, Murray became an unrestricted free agent last offseason. Though the running back was hopeful for a reunion with the team that drafted him in the third round back in 2011, when Dallas didn’t come to the table offering much, Murray turned to the rival Eagles and quickly agreed to a five-year, $40 million contract to head to Philadelphia.

But the truth is, then Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s offense was never a real fit for Murray’s running style, and Philadelphia’s motivation for the move likely had more to do with keeping the star running back from returning to Dallas than actually utilizing his ability.

The poor fit became abundantly clear as the season began. In Philadelphia’s first two games, including a Week 2 loss to the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field, Murray rushed 21 times for 11 yards. His usage and production ticked up toward the middle of the season, and perhaps not coincidentally, the Eagles started to win some games. But by Week 11 he was back to less than 15 carries per game.

Things came to a head after the team’s shocking win over the New England Patriots. Murray toted the ball just eight times in that game while Darren Sproles and practice squad signee Kenjon Barner both got more carries. Afterward on the team plane ride back to Philadelphia, Murray reportedly met with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to express displeasure with his role. But the situation got worse before it got better. Two weeks after that meeting, Murray didn’t see any action in the first half of a Sunday night game against the Arizona Cardinals and when he did finally enter the game in the second half, he carried just twice, totaling three yards.

Of course Murray wasn’t the only player Kelly had trouble finding a proper role for and that’s part of the reason why Kelly was fired a week later. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur finished out the season as interim head coach and in a season closing win over the Giants, Murray rushed for 69 yards on just 12 carries. Murray finished the season 193 carries for 702 yards and six touchdowns, but it seemed like greener pastures awaited him in Philly.

When the Eagles hired former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson as their head coach this offseason, it seemed to be another move in Murray’s favor. Pederson’s Chiefs offense found a way to utilize multiple backs this season despite the absence of one of the NFL’s best rushers, Jamaal Charles, who was lost early in the season to a knee injury.

But Murray reportedly still has his doubts that he will be utilized to the best of his ability while the Eagles organization isn’t sure if he’s the right fit to be their lead back and has their own doubts about whether he can return to his 2014 form next season. And the two sides have yet to meet to discuss their concerns since Pederson arrived on the job.

Clouding things further is Murray’s exorbitant contract, in which he is still due $9 million of guaranteed money. Murray has yet to ask for a trade or his release but should he do so, the contract complicates the chances of either happening. No team is going to want to take on that type of albatross in a trade and if Philadelphia was to simply cut him loose, the cap hit would be in the neighborhood of $13 million.

If things can’t be resolved to keep Murray content in an Eagles uniform for 2016, the likely resolution is a renegotiated contract that makes his cap hit more palatable to another team. There are several that would likely be interested should he become available at a reasonable price. And at least one former teammate in Dallas is lobbying for him to return.

For the second straight offseason, the situation surrounding Murray will be a big offseason storyline and after last season’s Murray drama ended with a shocking move the Philly, it’s anyone’s guess how this soap opera ends.

MANZIEL NOT CHARGED AFTER EX-GIRLFRIEND ALLEGES ATTACK

Speaking of soap operas, the Johnny Manziel saga waged on Thursday, with some more details emerging regarding his latest encounter with now ex-girlfriend Colleen Crowley in Texas.

According to a police report released on Thursday by the Fort Worth Police Department, Crowley alleges that Manziel struck her “several times” while in his room at the Hotel Zaza in Dallas, then forced her to leave the hotel in his car and drove to her car a half-mile away. It was at this point that Crowley tried to flee by she says Manziel tracked her down and “dragged her by her hair” back to the car.

“He grabbed me by my hair and threw me back into the car and got back in himself,” she told police, according to a WFAA.com report. “He hit me with his open hand on my left ear for jumping out of the car. I realized immediately that I could not hear out of that ear, and I still cannot today, two days later.”

According to the police report, Crowley says Manziel then hit her several more times in the car and threatened to kill himself, then to kill both of them. After the two arrived at Crowley’s apartment in Fort Worth, she contacted her parents. When Manziel found out about this, Crowley said she feared for her life and pulled a knife on him in her kitchen. Manziel then left the apartment. She said she later saw him outside the apartment, at which point she banged on a neighbor’s door screaming for help, causing Manziel to flee the scene on foot. Crowley noted that she believed that Manziel was on drugs based on the way he was acting.

Police arrived on the scene later, and wrote in their report that she became “increasingly uncooperative” as they conducted their investigation, to the point that she would not allow them to photograph any of the injuries she allegedly suffered at Manziel’s hand. She also declined to file a report of her own and when officers could not find Manziel to get his account, they closed the incident, determining that “no offense occurred.”

“The Dallas Police Department has conducted the appropriate investigative follow-up to the report forwarded to us by the Ft. Worth Police Department regarding an alleged incident involving Johnny Manziel. Investigative efforts to date have not resulted in the filing of a criminal complaint and the incident is determined to be closed. No further statement is expected at this time.”

As details emerged on Thursday, Manziel was tracked down by TMZ and denied Crowley’s claims of any wrongdoing on his part.

“It didn’t happen,” he said. “I’m completely stable. I’m safe and secure.”

However, Crowley’s claims, which are being investigated by the NFL according to reports, is a dark and scary twist to the Johnny drama. And the trouble surrounding the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback continues to drive people away. The latest is his agent, Erik Burkhardt, who released a statement Friday that he had severed ties with Manziel as a client.

“It is with deep regret that, after several emotional and very personal discussions with his family, his doctors, and my client himself, I have made the decision to terminate my professional relationship with Johnny Manziel,” Burkhardt said.

That move, plus the determination by the Browns that Manziel was no longer worth the hassle, which is likely to be followed by his release in March, leaves very few people in Manziel’s corner entering this offseason. Still something tells us that this saga is far from over.

NFL TO ESTABLISH ROONEY RULE FOR FEMALE EXECUTIVE CANDIDATES

Seeking to continue leading the way to equal opportunity in sports, the National Football League is taking more positive steps toward workplace equality.

Commissioner Roger Goodell revealed on Thursday, at the first NFL Women’s Summit, that the NFL is planning to institute a new “Rooney Rule” that will require teams to interview women for executive positions.

“You can see that progress is being made,” Goodell said. “Our commitment is we have something called the Rooney Rule, which requires us to make sure when we have an opening, that on the team or the league level, that we are going to interview a diverse slate of candidates. Well, we’re going to make that commitment and we’re going to formalize that we, as a league, are going to do that with women as well in all of our executive positions. We’re going to keep making progress here and make a difference.”

As it stands, just one woman currently holds an executive position in an NFL organization, Dawn Aponte, who is the executive vice president of football administration for the Miami Dolphins. Amy Trask famously excelled as CEO of the Oakland Raiders for more than a decade, and now does work for CBS Sports. But despite the success of those women, opportunities have been few and far between. Goodell is hoping the implementation of equal opportunity hiring practices changes that and gets more women involved at the executive level as more women are becoming involved with the on-field product.

“We believe in diversity. We believe we’re better as an organization when we have good people at the table. We have great people at the table,” Goodell said. “We’re also seeing it on the field. Sarah [Thomas] was our first NFL female official on the field this year and she did a fantastic job, and we’re very proud of her. We also have people breaking into coaching ranks … Jen [Welter] is the first coach last year in the NFL. And she set a trend, we now have a second coach of the Buffalo Bills, a female coach (Kathryn Smith).”

The move is a great step for the NFL toward bringing much-needed equality to the game.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys