DeMarco Murray had a chance to address a sensitive issue head-on Tuesday after the Eagles' walk-through practice in preparation for their Thanksgiving game against the Lions in Detroit. Instead, the team's top running back opted to slide out a side door before the locker room opened to reporters.
It was a similar on-field maneuver by Murray two games ago against Miami that created the issue, which eventually resulted in a searing comment from an anonymous teammate on Sunday after a blowout loss to Tampa Bay. On the final play of the first quarter in the Dolphins game, the NFL's 2014 rushing champion took a handoff on the right hash mark from quarterback Sam Bradford and ran about 15 yards to his left in order to pick up the 1 yard he needed for the first down.
The way the run ended, however, is what raised some eyebrows along the home team's sideline. Instead of bulling his way beyond the first-down marker, Murray went into a defensive, feet-first slide that was better than any we ever saw from Ben Revere during his Phillies tenure.
"Well, when you see DeMarco sliding before getting hit, you tell me - was that giving full effort?" the anonymous Eagle told The Inquirer. "You see that [stuff] and it makes you wonder."
The line of questioning was about whether the Eagles were collectively giving an honest effort. Murray was not around to respond to the comment Sunday after the game and when he was a no-show again Monday, the Eagles said he should be available Tuesday.
It did not happen.
The closest you could get to a DeMarco in the locker room was a DeMeco. That, of course, would be linebacker DeMeco Ryans. Rest assured that if somebody anonymously questioned Ryans' on-field effort, he would have something to say about it.
As it is, the veteran leader of the Eagles defense might have been more disturbed about the anonymous quote than he was about Murray's effort on the play in question.
"Everybody has their opinion on it," Ryans said. "I don't like players anonymously coming out and saying things. Man up and say what you have to say, but do it to that person. I don't like the fact that guys went to the media with that. Go to that teammate and say something."
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Murray was told that is not the way Eagles backs are taught to finish runs.
"We did within our meetings," Shurmur said. "We talked about making sure we finish forward. I think he felt like he had the first down. He was well aware of what he needed to get for the first down. We certainly teach our guys to fall forward or to continue to fight for yardage. You'd have to ask him specifically. He did get to the first down."
The effort on that particular play could be forgiven and probably would not have been mentioned if the Eagles had won that game against the Dolphins. As Ryans correctly noted, "things get kind of heightened because we lost two games. I think the sensitivity of everything kind of gets hyped. All locker rooms are pretty much the same."
Murray obviously has proved in the past that he is a workhorse willing to initiate contact. With Dallas last season, he led the league in carries, yards rushing, yards from scrimmage and touchdowns. You don't do those things by sliding to avoid contact. Murray's performance last season earned him a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $18 million with the Eagles.
After an abysmal start to his tenure in Philadelphia - he had 29 carries for 47 yards through the team's first four games and also missed a game because of injury - Murray started to flash some of his Cowboys form when he ran for a combined 195 yards in consecutive wins over the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants. But he had another difficult game against the Dolphins and even though he ran well and hard in the loss to Tampa Bay, the fact that he was not around to talk about the loss is a sign of his frustration.
Murray's rushing total of 515 yards through nine games is the lowest of his career, and his 810 yards from scrimmage are his lowest total since his 2011 rookie season. When asked if he thought Murray was frustrated, Ryans said, "I'm not sure. You'd have to DeMarco if he's frustrated."
That, of course, was impossible Sunday, Monday and again Tuesday because Murray had vacated the premises before anyone from the media had a chance to ask him a question. That's as disappointing as the feet-first slide against Miami because team leaders need to be accountable. Ryans, for example, would be the first man into the kitchen if a grease fire started. Murray, on the other hand, is more interested in being the first man out of the locker room in these turbulent times.