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Eagles' Mills shows remorse, but should choose words more carefully

Jalen Mills seems to have made the most of his do-over since charges of a 2014 simple assault against a woman were dropped, so it would only be fair to give him the benefit of the doubt after he gave the following unfortunate explanation for why he thought he was originally charged:

Jalen Mills seems to have made the most of his do-over since charges of a 2014 simple assault against a woman were dropped, so it would only be fair to give him the benefit of the doubt after he gave the following unfortunate explanation for why he thought he was originally charged:

"The girl - basically it was her word vs. mine. Domestic violence is very serious around the [United States], so women, nine times out of 10, they usually get the upper hand until you go to court."

But Mills, who was drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round, left out a few pertinent details in his answer. It wasn't just his word vs. the alleged victim's. Another witness picked him out of a lineup, according to the original police warrant.

And the case never went to court because he agreed to a pretrial diversion program to have the charges expunged.

"She had witnesses, but I had several witnesses, as well, too," Mills said. "So we just carried on until the process was dropped."

Friday was Mills' first opportunity to address his past and a presumed slide in the draft since the Eagles selected him out of Louisiana State two weeks ago. He was one of three prospects with red flags the team took on the third day - running back Wendell Smallwood and defensive end Alex McCalister were the others.

Mills was charged in June 2014 with second-degree battery assault, a felony. He knocked a 5-foot-3, 113-pound woman unconscious, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Mills, a defensive back, is currently listed as 6-foot, 191 pounds.

But the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor simple assault that August because of a lack of evidence that there was permanent disfigurement or unconsciousness. And in October, during a preliminary hearing, Mills' lawyer pleaded not guilty and claimed that it was actually another woman, Mills' girlfriend, who threw the punch.

The case was set to go to trial the following year, but in April 2015 Mills agreed to the conditions of the diversion program - community service, routine drug testing, a psychiatric evaluation - and was ordered to pay the victim's medical bills.

"Didn't want to go to court. Didn't want it to linger on," Mills said, explaining why he avoided court. "That's just something I did. I pled no contest, so I'm . . . not guilty for anything."

The Eagles said they did their own investigation of the incident and were also satisfied with LSU's own inquiry. Mills was suspended from school after he was charged, but he was reinstated and returned to the football team three months later after he met with a dean.

"We were comfortable enough with the set of circumstances that were described that we thought that it was worthwhile to give him a second chance here," Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said after the draft.

Almost everyone deserves a second chance. Mills has never been charged with another crime and apparently has no other skeletons in his closet. But he was, at the least, guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the NFL, that alone could be enough for a team to discard a player.

Mills' answer also suggested little remorse or concern for the alleged victim. Whether women get "the upper hand" - a poor choice of words - or not, he has to understand why they are afforded due process.

For the most part, though, Mills appeared sincere. He spoke of the pain the allegations caused for his mother, who raised him alone, and his grandmother.

"They taught me how to cater to a woman and how to love a woman and not to do those things I was accused of," Mills said. "So, for one, the hurt, it really wasn't for me because I knew I wasn't guilty. It was the hurt for my mom and my grandmother - how they knew I wasn't raised like that and I wouldn't do something like that."

But why did his stock drop during the draft if the Eagles and other teams were convinced he was innocent? His agent initially told him that he could be chosen in the second or third round. Several draft analysts had similar grades.

Mills' leg injury during his senior year may have played a role. He fractured his fibula during the preseason and missed six games. He said he wasn't 100 percent healthy until the Senior Bowl in January.

The 22-year-old Mills also ran a subpar 40-yard dash (4.61 seconds) for a cornerback at the combine. He played safety during his final two seasons at LSU, but the Eagles somewhat surprisingly are starting him out at corner.

"I just like it," Mills said. "It's my first, natural position."

McCalister tried to clear his name on Friday, as well. Florida had reportedly kicked him off the football team in December, but he said that the Gainesville Sun report was erroneous and that he missed the Gators' bowl game because of injury.

Still, when Roseman was asked after the draft about the dismissal he didn't refute it and said only, "It wasn't [a] legal [issue]."

McCalister was suspended by Florida at the start of the season for a violation of team rules. He said that he skipped too many meetings and chalked it up to immaturity. Nevertheless, the 6-foot-6, 239-pound end appeared to also drop down draft boards.

"I'm a little pissed off," said McCalister, who left school a year early. "Anybody be pissed off [if] they get told third or fourth [round] and they're in the seventh."

Not Mills, apparently.

"It was motivation, but I'm always motivated," he said. "It's not an extra chip on my shoulder."