PITTSFORD – LeSean McCoy said no player truly looks forward to the start of training NFL camp. But the man they call “Shady” certainly seemed in a gregarious mood Friday morning at St. John Fisher on the opening day of his first camp as a Buffalo Bill.
Toward the end of the two-hour practice, McCoy sidled up to Terry Pegula, who was in the middle of a conversation on his old flip phone, and embraced his owner in a bear hug. He slapped five with team president Russ Brandon.
Then McCoy grabbed a football, ran onto the stadium track surrounding the grass field at Fisher and heaved the ball up into the stands, eliciting a roar from the spectators in the stands.
“Hello, Buffalo!” McCoy shouted when he arrived in the interview tent after the opening workout.
So, a reporter asked, do you think you’ll get fined for throwing the football into the stands?
“No, they won’t fine me,” McCoy said. “I’ll probably get in trouble for something else, though.”
That elicited some laughter from the assembled media. What might that be, he was asked?
“Who knows, man?” McCoy replied.
McCoy then fielded a bunch of questions about the Bills and the buzz surrounding this year’s team. He said it’s too early to dwell on the playoffs, that if the team focuses on getting better every day, good things will follow. He said this is as deep and talented a team as he’s ever played on.
Inevitably, the discussion came back to his most recent brush with controversy away from the playing field.
Last week on Instagram, McCoy posted an invitation to a “Private Event Celebration” last Sunday night in Philadelphia. The invitation specified that it was for “females only” who were 21 and over. Women who responded to the post were told that they would have to sign a confidentiality agreement and wear certain attire to attend the party.
The Instagram post wasn’t well-received on some fronts. The Bills told McCoy to take it down because he had used the team’s logo, which was a violation of NFL rules.
So how did your party go the other night? McCoy was asked.
“It was a blast,” he said with a laugh, “it really was. DJ Donald Trump took over the 1s and 2s, Oprah was there, it was all right.
“No, I canceled it,” he said, turning serious. “It got too wild. I felt everybody took it out of context, so I just canceled it. I’m serious, though. It was, like, a thing I do every year with my teammates. It got too wild. I should never have posted it, and I’ll take blame for that.
“But for the record,” he added, “there was no weird orgy thing going on.”
Well, that’s a comforting thought. Roger Goodell has enough on his plate without having to mete out discipline for orgies. McCoy was asked if he had any second thoughts after hitting the button to send the invitation.
“No,” he said. “One of my guys in my camp actually posted it. I had a talk with him. We all make mistakes. I didn’t think it was that serious. But I could see where people may take it the wrong way.”
Predictably, McCoy blamed the media for taking the invitation out of “context.” This is a classic maneuver by athletes who get in hot water for dubious words or behavior. It was convenient for him to shift the blame to someone in his “camp.”
Sure, and it was those Patriots equipment guys, not naive Tom Brady, who conspired to deflate the footballs before the AFC title game last January.
It became clear, the more McCoy talked, that he had no idea why the party invitation was so regrettable. He didn’t seem to grasp how bad it looks to ask women to sign a confidentiality agreement at a time when players’ mistreatment of females is a raging issue in the league.
Any self-respecting woman would have been insulted. A confidentiality agreement? Why, in case they witnessed a player punching out his date in an elevator? Actually, people who objected to the invitation took it exactly the right way.
A reporter asked McCoy if he had considered how it might look to Kim Pegula, a female owner. He missed the point entirely, offering some half-baked answer about how he doesn’t judge people by their sex, but the quality of their work.
“It’s all about production,” he said, as if we were talking about Kim Pegula’s yards from scrimmage or her bank account.
McCoy was becoming more agitated by the line of questioning – same as when the media insisted on asking him to elaborate on his claim that Chip Kelly had a vendetta against black players. But Mike Rodak, who covers the Bills for ESPN, pressed on. He wanted McCoy to explain the purpose of the confidentiality agreement.
“Oh, man! Go ahead,” McCoy said.
“Proper context,” Rodak said. “People want to know what it meant.”
“You’ve asked enough,” McCoy replied.
Well, reporters needed to ask. It was a lot more interesting than talking about how poorly EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel threw the ball in the first practice, or how Rex Ryan had a better feel for this training camp than he ever did in his six years with the Jets.
McCoy can complain all he likes about the media. It’s not the media who accused Chip Kelly of being a racist. It’s not the media who posted a females-only party invite, with a confidentiality clause to follow. Out of context? The context couldn’t be clearer.
We should be talking about McCoy’s production as a featured back, not the female owner’s. But as long as he continues to make outrageous statements, the media will pay attention and ask for elaboration. That’s how the world works nowadays.
McCoy has been in Buffalo for a little over four months and he’s caused more of a stir than Rex Ryan. He’s a gifted back, but a loose cannon. You don’t know when he’ll go off next. Maybe that’s one reason the Eagles were so eager to get rid of him.