If there's one NFL player you wouldn't expect to be defending cops, it's LeSean McCoy. While Colin Kaepernick kneels to protest violence by police, McCoy is facing a civil suit back in Philadelphia for allegedly assaulting the men in blue.
But that's "Shady," an elusive and complicated soul who is as difficult to pin down off the field as he is to tackle on it. McCoy doesn't speak out often, but when he does he's usually blunt and unafraid of making his feelings clear.
McCoy has no interest in joining Kaepernick's protest movement. He believes it's an affront to the military and the police. On Wednesday, he announced that he intends to bring some local cops to an upcoming game to make his sentiments known.
"Just an appreciation type of thing because they’re taking so much heat right now and what’s going on is definitely wrong," he said, "but I always feel there’s just bad people, there’s good cops and there’s bad cops."
That's about as far as McCoy would go on the matter. He declined any comment a couple of weeks ago after two more African-American males were shot to death by cops. He's been making his statements on the field lately, and they've been profound.
McCoy has been the Bills' best offensive player through the first five weeks, their MVP. With the passing game struggling, he has led a resurgent running game that has carried the offense and personified Rex Ryan's "ground and pound" philosophy.
He is fourth in the NFL in rushing with 447 yards on 85 carries, a 5.3 average per run that would be a career high over a full season. He is also second on the Bills with 19 receptions (for 95 yards). After a slow start, he has rushed for 330 yards and a robust 6.2 yards an attempt during the Bills' three-game winning streak.
McCoy says he feels like the back who led the NFL with 1,607 rushing yards and 2,146 scrimmage yards in 2013 -- the dynamic all-purpose weapon the Bills expected when they traded for him in early 2015 and gave him a five-year, $40 million contract.
That partly explained Shady's uncommonly chipper mood this week. But he also had to be relieved to know that Kaepernick was the big national story line today. Unlike last year's game in Philly, when he faced his former coach, Chip Kelly, for the first time since the trade, any personal resentments would be reduced to mere sidebars.
"For sure, that's way behind me," McCoy said. "I’ve never had a real issue with him. You know, some things we didn’t see eye-to-eye. I mean that’s tons of players and coaches. I think ours is more vocal and kinda immediate which is different from other players, but I have no issue with him."
That's Shady being his elusive self again. By all accounts, he and Kelly (now the Niners head coach) clashed in Philly. Word was, Kelly didn't believe McCoy's running style was sufficiently straight-ahead. Friends of McCoy said he was "devastated" and
"heartbroken" to be dealt to Buffalo, and felt betrayed.
"I was hurt," McCoy said later Wednesday. "Last year, it took me awhile physically and mentally to get over it. You talk about a place (Philly) that I kind of did what I wanted. Not in a bad way. It was like knowing the name of the substitute cafeteria lady, her knowing the type of food I wanted, little stuff."
"My hometown's an hour away from Philadelphia," said McCoy. "I can jump on the highway and boom, I'm home in an hour."
McCoy had never lived outside the state of Pennsylvania before the trade. He grew up in Harrisburg, the state capital, went to college at Pitt. He was 20 when the Eagles made him the 53rd pick of the 2009 draft. He played six seasons in Philadelphia.
So it was a tough transition, moving to Buffalo. He balked at first, wrangling more money out of the Pegulas. He battled injuries from the start of his first training camp. He was also involved in a custody fight with the mother of his son, LeSean Jr.
"The custody of my son has changed since I've been in Buffalo," McCoy said. "He's 4. There's things people don't know. I had him on weekdays and his mother got him on weekends. In Buffalo, it's two weeks on, two weeks off. I've got a full-time nanny."
Ryan says McCoy's first season as a Bill would have been great for a lot of backs. But McCoy felt he hadn't lived up to the expectations that attended his arrival. He rushed for only 895 yards and missed four games. Physically, he wasn't himself for most of the season. The Bills won only five games with him in the lineup.
He heard the talk. Running backs are a dime a dozen. You can find one anywhere. Paying $8 million is a waste. They could have lost without him. McCoy burned to show the world that he was special, the rare running back that's worth the investment in a passing league.
"Yeah. I think so," McCoy said. "My whole life has been like that. I have to prove myself. In high school, I broke my ankle and I went from 78 scholarships to almost three. I had to prove myself there (at Pitt).
"Then I got to the draft and they made me the fourth running back," he said. "They took all these guys in the first round and I thought I was way better. Then I got the NFL. In my second year, we lost Brian Westbrook, a hell of a player. They thought the running game would be just over. They thought no one could replace him.
"Then the trade here. So I've got to prove to the Buffalo fans that I'm worth every dime that they paid."
Sound like anyone we know? Thurman Thomas had a similar chip on his shoulder. Drafted late, had to prove himself. Moody guy. Here's a stat: In his career, McCoy is averaging 101 yards from scrimmage per game. During his first 10 years in Buffalo, Thomas averaged 101 scrimmage yards per game.
"Oh, I'm cool with Thurman," McCoy said. "I ain't as good as him. But the type of attitude that he had, I have that same attitude. You always want to show out. There's always somebody that hasn't seen you play. So that first time at the game, you should give them something. 'Ah, OK, I see what they were talking about!'"
At his best, Shady leaves fans marveling at his sheer speed and lateral quickness. But he never seems content. Last week, after torching the Rams for 150 yards and dominating the game, he said he should have run for 200. He's always talking about yards that he "left out on the field."
Sometimes, his ego gets the best of him. After the trade, he said Kelly traded away the black players and refused to clarify his remarks. In the summer of 2015, he advertised an all-females party where women had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Last summer, he was involved in an early-morning brawl with off-duty cops at a Philly night club. Last year, after losing in his return to Philly, he sulked like a baby.
"If I'd have walked out with a win, I would have felt, 'Yeah, I showed them,'" McCoy said. "But I didn't. I took the coward's way out. I probably should have spoken to the media."
Today, he gets another shot at Chip Kelly. The Bills have a chance to win a fourth straight game for the first time in eight years, since before McCoy entered the league. If he plays the way he did in the previous three, he'll walk off the field a much happier man than he did last December in Philadelphia.
McCoy says it's just a "normal game," a chance to get to 4-2. That's true in the sense that he sees every game as a chance to prove himself, like Thurman in his day. The chip is still there on his shoulder, in more ways than one.