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LeSean McCoy tries to put race issue behind him

LeSean McCoy spoke with the Buffalo media on Wednesday for the first time since making his racially charged comments about Eagles coach Chip Kelly. He was not the least bit interested in revisiting the issue or expanding on his remarks.

“I have nothing to say about that,” McCoy said after OTAs at One Bills Drive. “I’m in Buffalo. Everything in Philadelphia is over. I have nothing more really to say about it. It is what it is. Everybody can make their own thoughts and assumptions about it, but I’m done talking about it.”

It was disappointing, but not at all surprising. When an athlete says anything remotely controversial these days, you can be sure he’ll distance himself from it later. You can almost script the words in advance. It’s all in the past. Let’s move on. Or that horrifying cliche, it is what it is.

But those were no ordinary comments that McCoy made about Kelly in an ESPN The Magazine interview last month. McCoy essentially accused his former coach of a being a racist, flatly stating that Kelly was quicker to get rid of black players.

In case you were trapped on the International Space Station the past month or so, here’s what McCoy had to say about Kelly – after making it clear that he respected him as a coach:

“You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest. That’s the truth. There’s a reason … It’s hard to explain with him. But there’s a reason he got rid of all the good black players – the good ones – like that.”

They say race is the third rail of American politics. It’s equally electrified in the sports world, where agents and PR men try to manage every athlete’s utterance and do their best to control the damage when a player actually speaks his mind.

McCoy actually called Kelly a “genius” later in a 10-minute media scrum. But the racial shots can’t be easily swept away. It might be over for McCoy in Philly, but Kelly has to deal with the fallout, the damning suggestion that he discriminates against blacks in a sport that is roughly 70 percent African-American.

Don’t you feel it’s important to elaborate after beginning a discussion about race in America, McCoy was asked?

“For what?” he said. “I don’t have to explain myself to nobody. I said how I felt at the time and I’m done with that.”

Kelly said last week that McCoy’s assertions were wrong. He said he has twice reached out to his former star running back, but McCoy hasn’t returned his calls. Someone asked McCoy why he hadn’t called Kelly back.

“Are you guys listening to me?” McCoy said. “Can I say it any other way? I’m not talking about Chip Kelly or no Eagles. I’ll be done with this interview if nobody else has anything else to say about the Bills.”

From there, the conversation swerved back to football. “Shady” McCoy was eager to talk about the Bills and the offense and his optimism about the new season. He was playful and combative. At one point, he chided a reporter who assumed, incorrectly, that he had never run behind a fullback in his career.

McCoy is a bit touchy about his image as a finesse runner who doesn’t hit the holes fast enough and has a tendency to dance. That, and a $9.7 million salary cap hit, were the actual reasons why Kelly traded him to the Bills, not his skin color.

The Eagles gave DeMarco Murray a five-year, $40 million deal after shipping McCoy out of town. That’s the same money McCoy got from the Bills. So it seems clear that Kelly believed Murray, who is black, was a better fit for his offense.

McCoy led the NFL in negative rushing yards in 2014. But he didn’t gain the second-most yards among NFL backs the last two seasons by refusing to hit the hole. McCoy had 314 and 312 carries the last two years. So it’s not as if he can’t carry the load as a featured back.

“I mean, any system I can do well in,” McCoy said. “You can just check the numbers yourself … I don’t pay any attention to that. You talk about the top notch backs, I don’t think it matters what system they’re in. You’re going to make plays or you’re not.”

Offensive coordinator “Greg Roman has a bunch of different things,” McCoy said. “It sort of reminds me of Chip, the whole unique style of getting his backs in space, that genius type of thing. No matter what, I think he’s a genius, and Greg is similar. They find ways to trick the defense and get their backs in a lot of open space. Greg definitely has a lot of similarity there, for sure.”

The Buffalo media wasted no time jumping through that opening. So you do respect Chip, he was asked?

“Yeah, for sure,” McCoy said. “As a coach, I can’t say nothing negative about him, as far as Xs and Os stuff.”

Do you regret what you said about him?

“I never regret nothing I say,” McCoy scoffed. “Never. Nothing I do, never regret it.”

He does have one major regret. In six NFL seasons, McCoy has yet to win a playoff game.

Philly made the postseason three times in his six years there and lost in the first round every time. McCoy did not distinguish himself, gaining a combined 147 yards in the three games for a 3.9-yard average and a long run of 14 yards.

“I love to compete,” he said. “I love to battle with the best of them. So I’m looking forward to putting some numbers up here – and I want to win. You can be one of the best players, stats-wise, but if you’re not winning, all that stuff doesn’t matter.

“I want to get to the big games where everybody’s watching. That’s something I haven’t done from high school to the pros.”

McCoy said he’s not one to bite his tongue, though he wouldn’t elaborate on the Kelly race thing. He wants to focus on the Bills. It might have been wise if he’d taken that approach from the start, rather than make inflammatory accusations that are sure to shadow Kelly for as long as he coaches in the NFL.

He’s put it behind him, at least for now. Something tells me it might pop up around Dec. 13, when McCoy goes back to face his old coach in Philadelphia.

email: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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