The oversized laundry basket was removed. Then, a cardboard box. And the media swarm closed on LeSean McCoy’s locker.
The Buffalo Bills running back set up, knowing exactly where the line of questioning was heading.
Earlier Wednesday, Chip Kelly said on a conference call he’d “love” to shake McCoy’s hand at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. Kelly repeated that he tried to call McCoy after the trade went public, after word leaked that the Philadelphia Eagles were shipping him off to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso.
“Listen, man, Chip can’t shake (expletive). At all. Nothing,” McCoy said. “He knows this. 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. There’s nothing for us to talk about.”
Oh, he’ll talk to ownership. To fans. To teammates. Certainly not the head coach.
Asked if Sunday is personal, McCoy stuttered briefly before saying he can’t make it a “LeSean McCoy type of thing” because he could always go for 200 yards and lose. There’s too much at stake for the 6-6 Bills. But make no mistake: The tone of his voice, the bite of his rhetoric, the refusal to speak to Kelly.
Go ahead and read between McCoy’s lines. He wants this one. Bad. Emotions are still running high.
No, don’t hold your breath for pregame pleasantries. They haven’t spoken in the nine months since the trade.
“I’m not talking to Chip,” McCoy said. “We’ve got nothing to talk about. He can’t call me. He can’t shake my hand. There’s nothing he can do with me. He can’t say (expletive) to me, so it’s simple as that. I don’t dislike him. I don’t have anything against him. But there’s nothing for us to talk about.”
Coaches, teammates, everyone knows Sunday’s trip to the City of Brotherly Love means something extra to McCoy.
Even quarterback Tyrod Taylor – quiet as they come on this roster – said “I’m pretty sure he had this one marked on the calendar once this trade happened.”
Added coach Rex Ryan, “I’m sure it’ll mean a lot.”
That’s because the Eagles gave up on the 27-year-old running back with an $11.95 million cap hit. Kelly’s crew called Buffalo looking to trade and took linebacker Kiko Alonso in exchange. Now on a five-year, $40 million deal in Buffalo, McCoy has re-asserted himself as one of the NFL’s best running backs. A nagging hamstring injury bothered him in September, but he has carried the ball 173 times for 792 yards with three touchdowns, in addition to 37 receptions for 249 yards and two scores.
McCoy’s been his slippery, cut-on-a-dime, explosive old self of late, fueling Buffalo’s offense.
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, there are issues. DeMarco Murray’s role diminished in a win at New England and he reportedly aired his frustration to owner Jeffrey Lurie on the team plane. The Eagles are 5-7, tied for first place in the hyperventilating NFC East.
Looking back, Kelly still isn’t thrilled that news of the trade leaked to the public before becoming official, taking a not-so-subtle jab at the Bills. And when he tried to reach McCoy, the incensed vet didn’t pick up. The coach added that Philadelphia’s quarterback swap with the St. Louis Rams – Nick Foles for Sam Bradford – was handled with much more tact.
“When we had the trade with Buffalo, the trade wasn’t finalized,” Kelly said. “And then all of a sudden every newspaper report was out there that LeSean was gone and I’m sure he felt bad that I didn’t get a chance to call him but the trade wasn’t initiated when the story got out. How it was handled wasn’t the way it should’ve been handled.”
So here they are. Kelly, still trying to revolutionize football in Philadelphia. McCoy, trying to end the Bills’ 15-year playoff drought.
McCoy repeated that he does not want this week, this game to be all about him. If that’s the case, he might press, miss a block, fumble, cost his offense in a game they absolutely need to keep playoff hopes alive. There was initial shock with the trade. But now he believes – seeing where Buffalo is, where Philadelphia is – that going to the Bills was the best turn his career could’ve taken.
“I think so,” McCoy said. “Coming to a place that really wanted me and appreciated me, that always counts. The coaches and the atmosphere here, it feels good again. It feels like the NFL again.”
And is Philadelphia better off with Murray than McCoy? His style has not been a fit in the Eagles’ scheme – he has averaged 3.0 yards per carry or less in five games this season.
Kelly won’t go there.
“I’ve never been a comparison guy,” Kelly said. “I think they’re both outstanding running backs. LeSean’s having a great year. We’ll have our hands full defensively. I’ve always believed LeSean is one of the premier backs in this game. It’s a tough matchup for us.”
To outsiders, it might seem like McCoy is talking out of two sides of his mouth.
He insists there’s no hatred toward Chip Kelly. And yet, with a couple of profanities, he assured he won’t be catching up with his old coach.
“I’m sure there’s people you don’t hate that you don’t speak to,” McCoy said. “I don’t see what the big thing is with talking to somebody. We have nothing to talk about. I’m with the Bills, he’s with the Eagles. We never had a great relationship, best friends, so there’s nothing to talk about it.
“For what? There’s no need for that.”
This wasn’t the case with McCoy’s first NFL coach, Andy Reid. When they met again, McCoy gave Reid “a big slap on the butt.” The two had that type of relationship. Not so much with Kelly, the one who forced McCoy to play for a team outside the state of Pennsylvania for the first time ever.
Kelly may praise McCoy. He may still want to chat. Publicly, he’s extending a peace offering of sorts.
But McCoy isn’t forgetting how the trade went down.
“I don’t owe him anything,” McCoy said. “Simple as that. For him to say that, that’s cool, that’s nice but I’m not worried about that. I knew who I was before he got there and I know who I am now.”