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NFL AM: McCoy Rejects Kelly’s Olive Branch, Prepares To Make Eagles Pay

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Sunday’s battle between the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field has major playoff implications for both teams, but it’s also personal for a few of the involved parties.

Former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy makes his long-awaited return to Philly as a member of the Bills, after being traded away this past offseason by Chip Kelly. The two have traded barbs in the media since then, and continued to do so this week, adding fuel to the fire of the already contentious relationship.

Kelly took the high road in his comments to the media, noting that he’s reached out to McCoy in the months since the trade, to no avail, and would do so again on Sunday.

“I’d love to shake LeSean’s hand,” Kelly told Buffalo reporters on a Wednesday morning conference call. “I tried to call him after. And I talked to his agent after we traded him. I always wanted to talk to LeSean. Again, I have no issues with LeSean at all. He has a great personality, an infectious personality. I have tremendous respect for LeSean.”

However that feeling is not mutual. When the message was relayed to McCoy by a member of the media on Wednesday, the former Eagles running back went off on an expletive-laced tirade.

“Man, listen. I’m not talking to Chip. We got nothing to talk about,” McCoy said as reporters gathered in front of his locker. “He can’t call me. He can’t shake my hand. There’s nothing he can do with me. He can’t say s— to me. It’s as simple as that. I don’t dislike him. I don’t have nothing against him. But there’s nothing for us to talk about. And he knows that, he knows me, he know how I act. There’s nothing he can tell me. There’s nothing he can talk about.”

Those are the words of a man still bitter about the end of what was a fruitful tenure in Philadelphia, and perhaps with good reason. McCoy, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native, was drafted by his hometown team in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft and quickly became one of the league’s best running backs. Over six seasons, he compiled a franchise record 6,792 rushing yards, 2,282 receiving yards and 59 total touchdowns.

He even had the best season of his career under Kelly back in 2013, when he led the league in carries with 314, rushing yards with 1,607, and yards from scrimmage with 2,146. But the two reportedly never saw eye-to-eye and as his role diminished slightly in his second season under Kelly, the man they call Shady became a malcontent. Following the season, Kelly took the first opportunity he had to ship McCoy out of Philadelphia, sending him to the Bills on the first day of the league year in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

The move was a shocker to McCoy, who despite his tenuous relationship with Kelly had built other strong relationships in Philadelphia, including with team owner Jeffrey Lurie, as one of the best players in franchise history. The breakup was messy and when asked about the trade, McCoy didn’t pull any punches, going as far as to insinuate that Kelly’s motivations might be based in racism.

“He got rid of all the good players, especially the good black players,” McCoy said then, an idea Kelly vehemently denied.

The trade has actually worked out better for McCoy than it did for the Eagles. Despite missing two games earlier in the season, McCoy is on pace for his third straight and fifth career 1,000-yard season, and ranks ninth in the NFL in rushing yards. He’s the centerpiece of a Bills rushing attack that ranks fourth in the league at 140.9 yards per game and a major reason that Buffalo is in the hunt for a Wild Card spot in the AFC.

It hasn’t worked out as well for the Eagles. McCoy’s replacements DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews haven’t fit the bill in their first seasons in Philadelphia.

Murray, the reigning NFL rushing champion, is on pace to finish well below 1,000 yards and is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. In Sunday’s Eagles win over the Patriots, he had just eight carries for 24 yards. Afterward, in a situation eerily similar to that which McCoy went through last year, Murray expressed frustration with his role on the team and reportedly spoke to owner Jeffrey Lurie about it on the team’s flight back to Philadelphia. Mathews had been better, averaging a career-best 5.7 yards per carry, albeit in limited opportunities. But the former Chargers running back continues to have trouble staying on the field and has missed the last three games with a concussion.

Despite all that, with those two, veteran Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner splitting carries, the Eagles rushing offense still ranks 11th in the league in yards per game. Kelly, for his part, doesn’t regret the moves made or even the messy divorce with McCoy and has repeatedly expressed interest in burying the hatchet with his former running back. But McCoy feels that’s all lip service and doesn’t plan on acknowledging Kelly on Sunday.

“Listen, man, Chip can’t shake s— at all. Nothing. He knows this,” McCoy said. “That’s why [he] said it. I know him. He’s very intelligent. I can read between the lines. Like I said, I have nothing against him, no hatred. We’re not enemies. I won’t say anything wrong to him. But there’s nothing for us to talk about, at all. Simple as that.”

The barbs set the stage for what promises to be an interesting Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia with big implications for McCoy’s Bills (6-6) and Kelly’s Eagles (5-7). Buffalo is one game back of an AFC Wild Card spot while Philly is locked in a three-way tie for the lead in the lowly NFC East. For those reasons, one team will come out of the game with playoff hopes alive and well, while the other will be knocked back a notch. And McCoy is banking on a revenge game that allows his new team to fly out of Philly with a victory.

SAINTS LOSE INGRAM FOR THE SEASON

It has been another woeful season in New Orleans for the Saints, who are mired in last place in the NFC South, and it got even worse on Wednesday when they lost one of their best players for the remainder of the season.

Running back Mark Ingram has been diagnosed with a serious shoulder injury and the Saints placed him on season-ending injured reserve, ending his fifth NFL season after 12 games. Ingram ranked 11th in the NFL in rushing yards for the season, with 769 yards and had a strong chance to eclipse 1,000 for the first time in his career before the injury cut his season short. However, despite the games he will miss, Ingram did manage to eclipse 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the second straight season, building on a breakout 2014 season that saw him emerge as a legitimate lead running back after a disappointing start to his NFL career.

Though the Saints haven’t exactly been world beaters with their ground game, which currently ranked 25th in the league, Ingram was far and away the leader of the attack. It’s not immediately known who will take the reins at running back for New Orleans in his stead. The team already lost their second leading rusher, Khiry Robinson, to a broken leg last month and offseason acquisition C.J. Spiller has been a massive disappointment, with just 108 rushing yards on 31 carries and 216 receiving yards on 29 catches for the season.

Beyond Spiller, New Orleans’ options are limited. The team signed former Cardinals and Redskins running back Tim Hightower after Robinson went down. But Hightower’s ceiling isn’t very high. Before this season he hadn’t played in the NFL since 2011. He had 11 carries for 46 yards in his second game with the Saints, a loss to his former team in Washington but has since received just one touch, a two-yard carry in last week’s loss to Carolina. Behind Hightower on the depth chart is return man Marcus Murphy, but the Saints don’t seem inclined to use him in the running game. The team may go out and sign a player to replace Ingram on Thursday, but they don’t have a true running back on the practice squad and the chances of a newcomer learning enough to make an impact by Sunday are slim.

The lack of depth is just another symptom of another lost season in New Orleans, where the Saints will miss the playoffs for a second straight season, the first time that’s happened since 2008. If they don’t win all of their final four games, New Orleans is also looking at the first back-to-back losing season since 1998 and 1999 when Mike Ditka was the coach. Ditka was fired after the 1999 season. With that in mind, all signs are pointing to a house cleaning in New Orleans after the season. When it’s all said and done, Ingram, who just signed a four-year, $16-million contract last offseason, may be one of the only familiar faces remaining.

RAIDERS INK CRABTREE TO EXTENSION

Michael Crabtree’s move to the other side of San Francisco bay has worked out well for both he and his new team, the Oakland Raiders, and on Wednesday the Raiders rewarded that success.

Oakland announced on Wednesday that they had signed the veteran wide receiver to a four-year contract extension. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the deal is worth a total of $35 million, including $19 million in guaranteed money.

It’s a big raise for Crabtree, who signed an incentive-based, one-year, $3.2 million contract with Oakland in the offseason after spending the first six years of his career in San Francisco. That move has paid off for both sides. After a disappointing end to his tenure with the 49ers, Crabtree has been revitalized in his move across the Golden Gate.

After eclipsing 1,000 yards for the first and only time in his career back in 2012 with San Francisco and helping the 49ers make it all the way to the Super Bowl, Crabtree saw his role diminish after tearing his Achilles during OTA in 2013. He returned for the final five games of the 2013 season but his impact was limited. He continued to be limited last season, with just 68 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns despite playing all 16 games. That led him to his release by San Francisco, and he had a hard time finding work until the Raiders came calling in April with a one-year “prove it” type deal. Crabtree has done just that.

In 12 games this season, he’s hauled in 66 passes for 760 yards and seven touchdowns. The 28-year-old Crabtree, once believed to be on his way to becoming one of the best receivers in the league early on his career, has settled into a veteran role nicely with Oakland, providing a perfect complement to rookie standout Amari Cooper. The duo are part of a Raiders passing attack, led by second year quarterback Derek Carr, that ranks eighth in the NFL.

With running back Latavius Murray also in the midst of a breakout season, Oakland has the skill position pieces in place to run a successful offense for years to come and that offense could lead the Raiders back to contention before too long.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys