The Eagles released Josh Huff on Thursday morning, two days after the wide receiver was arrested on gun and drug charges and a day after Eagles coach Doug Pederson said he expected him to play Sunday against the New York Giants.
The team's stance on Huff changed after meetings among the organization's brass prompted them to let the third-year wide receiver go. Owner Jeffrey Lurie, top football executive Howie Roseman, team president Don Smolenski, and Pederson discussed what to do about Huff on Wednesday and into Thursday morning, when Roseman and Pederson informed Huff of his release.
Huff was charged with speeding, possession of a small amount of marijuana, unlawful possession of a weapon and prohibited weapons/devices after a traffic violation on the Walt Whitman Bridge.
"We spent a lot of time over the last 48 hours just making sure that we had the information and that we weren't rushing to judgment," Roseman said, "and that we have a process in place for these sort of things that could lead us to what we think is the right decision."
Roseman would not specify what changed in 24 hours since the team's initial stance or whether the team received additional information. He also said Huff's public comments Wednesday did not factor into the decision. When explaining why he carried a gun and six hollow-point bullets, Huff said, "What professional athlete don't have a gun?" and explained that he needed to protect his family.
Huff also insisted that he never brought a gun onto the premises. When Roseman was asked if Huff did, he said the receiver told him no.
Huff's teammates were surprised when they learned of Huff's release. Huff was "hurt," according to teammate and close friend Kenjon Barner, who saw Huff crying and remorseful.
"What exactly can you say to a guy who's already at his lowest, and then he gets cut?" Barner said.
Roseman did not divulge what was said when they met, but called it "disappointing." Huff's locker was already cleared out by the time practice finished Thursday.
"I want to apologize to Mr. Lurie and his family, my coaches and teammates, and all Eagles fans," Huff said in a statement. "I'm sorry that any action by me brought negative light to this organization. I want to thank the Lurie family, Howie, this community, and the entire Eagles organization for the opportunity I've had the past three years. Most important, I want to let the fans and the community as a whole know that I understand the responsibility that I have as a professional athlete, and I will take all measures necessary to correct mistakes I've made."
Roseman was purposefully vague on many of the details surrounding the Eagles' decision. He used the word "process" 11 times, trying to explain how the team needed time to consider what to do. He did not reveal what part of Huff's transgressions were grounds for dismissal or what precedent this sets in the locker room.
Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham was arrested twice since July, including one gun-related offense. Roseman said the facts and circumstances were different with Bradham. He emphasized that the organization tries to look at each incident on a case-by-case basis. He did not say how Bradham's incidents might have factored into this one, but the message was felt in the locker room.
"Josh is not the first player to get in trouble, he's not the last," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "Right now, all you know as a player is don't get in trouble."
Huff, 25, had 13 catches for 72 yards and one touchdown this season. He also had a kickoff-return touchdown and was averaging 36 yards on six returns. A former Oregon standout who arrived in the third round of the 2014 draft, Huff was reunited with Chip Kelly when he came to Philadelphia. He never emerged into a top receiver for the Eagles, but he had a role on offense and special teams.
"I go back to the word 'disappointed' as we are standing here right now and discussing this as we are playing a big game this week," Roseman said. "There is no doubt that he was coming along as a player and that he helped this team, but we have to do what is in the best interest of this organization, this building and the 63 guys. We have a responsibility to a lot of people here and we don't take that lightly."
The Eagles have not made a corresponding roster move, but a spot will be filled before the game on Sunday. No. 5 wide receiver Bryce Treggs now moves up the depth chart, and the team has Paul Turner and David Watford on the practice squad if it wants to promote a receiver.
Releasing Huff did not exactly quell any distractions leading up to the Giants game — in fact, Jenkins said it's more of a distraction now that Huff has been released. He said the Eagles were operating "status quo" before the news came about Huff. The front office made its stand, though, and the Eagles are moving on without the receiver.
"Unfortunately, when you get in trouble, those who make decisions can exercise their right to make decisions," Jenkins said. "Unfortunately, Josh was let go. Moving forward, I think every player understands don't put yourself in a position where they can make those decisions about you."
Guard Allen Barbre (hamstring) and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (hamstring) did not practice. Defensive Bennie Logan (groin) and tackles Taylor Hart (ankle) were limited. Running back Ryan Mathews (tooth) was a full participant, as was cornerback Nolan Carroll (hamstring).