THERE ARE things fans would just rather not see or have to think about, and we're not talking here about the replay of the swing pass to Darren Sproles that lost 6 yards Sunday night and put the Eagles on the path to an overtime loss at Dallas.
To be sure, that was the sort of topic that was going to dominate Wednesday's media availabilities, along with dropped passes, faked-punt foolery, a fumble and a few coaching decisions that took the Dallas game out of the Eagles' win column and left them 4-3, 0-2 in the NFC East, facing a critical visit to the rival Giants on Sunday.
But those issues all faded into the background around 11 a.m. Tuesday, when a Delaware River Port Authority officer pulled over Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff allegedly for speeding and having too dark a tint on his windows. When the officer said he smelled marijuana, and Huff oblingingly offered up a small amount of weed and a 9mm handgun he'd been keeping in the driver's side door, along with a magazine of hollow-point bullets, suddenly the whole tone of the discussion of the Eagles and their weapons changed.
New Jersey gun laws are stringent. By having the weapon, which Huff said was registered in Texas, in the passenger compartment with him, not registering it in New Jersey, and keeping the hollow-point ammunition in the passenger compartment, as well, Huff has put himself in an uphill battle to avoid jail time, said a New Jersey lawyer familiar with such matters, who once worked in the Camden County Prosecutor's office.
Of course, that attorney does not represent Huff and he stressed that he does not know all the facts of the case. It's possible Huff's defense will try to question the legality of the traffic stop, the circumstances under which the drugs and gun were turned over, the point at which Huff was read his rights, and so on. But however this matter is ultimately resolved, Huff faces serious charges that probably won't go away quickly, charges that play into an image of an Eagles team that can't seem to stay out of off-the-field trouble under first-year coach Doug Pederson. Charges that kept the Giants from being mentioned in the first 20 questions Pederson was asked in his regular Wednesday news conference. Charges that seem very likely to spur an NFL suspension for Huff at some point down the road; Pederson said Huff will play against the Giants "as of right now."
Judging from social media, quite a few fans were shocked and outraged by the arrest. Most people who spend time around young pro athletes were not. Huff faced his questioners, stacked four or five layers deep around his locker stall Wednesday, and asked, in a matter-of-fact tone, "What professional athlete don't have a gun?"
No other Eagles in the locker room Wednesday wanted to venture a guess on that tally, but we know linebacker Nigel Bradham was arrested last month for forgetting his handgun was in his backpack before trying to fly home from the bye week in Miami.
Huff, 25, asked whether he really thought all players had guns, said: "I do, yeah."
"I have a wife and I have a son at home. My job is to protect them at all costs, and my job is to protect myself, as well, even though I know I have security here (at the practice facility), I have to protect myself, as well."
This was after Huff told reporters that he had "made a terrible decision," and "already apologized to my teammates and Mr. Lurie and the entire Eagles organization about my actions."
Huff said he did not bring the gun into the locker room. "I'm not Gilbert Arenas," he said, invoking the former Washington Wizard who kept guns in his locker and got into a much-publicized 2009 dispute with a teammate who also had a gun. "I'm not going to bring a gun and put my teammates in jeopardy or anything. That's not me. It's solely for protection, and that's that."
Huff is from Houston, where he has said his drug-abusing mother tried to hit him with a 2-by-4 on his birthday. His college years at Oregon, she spent in prison.
"You can't trust a lot of people in Houston. There's always somebody out to get you," Huff said. "You have to protect yourself. Even when I'm back in Houston, I always have a gun on me, because there have been several incidents in Houston where I lost a friend to gun violence who was in the wrong place at wrong time, so why would I let that happen to me?"
Huff said he "knew a little bit about (New Jersey's gun laws), but obviously, I didn't know enough, and that's on me. As a guy who carries, I should know things like that."
Pederson confirmed that the arrest occurred after Huff left NovaCare Tuesday, having watched game film of Sunday's loss. Huff said he did not go directly from the facility to the bridge, but he did not offer details.
"I know that my actions come with consequences. I understand that and I own up to it," Huff said. "All I can do is take it a day at a time right now. That's what I'm focused on. My focus right now is on the Giants."
Good luck with that, Josh. And good luck with that, Eagles.
"It's probably more of a distraction for me than the players, because I'm the one having to answer and field the questions," Pederson said. "But I know once I leave here, I'm on the practice field, and it's business as usual."
Huff said that when he spoke to the team, "I apologized for being a distraction to them, especially right now. We don't need it. We all have one goal, and that's to win the division first, and make it to the playoffs. That's all I can say right now."
Bradham said "everybody has their own reasons" for owning handguns. "Most people want to protect their family. It's a safety thing."
Bradham said he had "no idea at all" how many Eagles own guns.
"Nobody wants to be a distraction to the team," said Bradham, who found himself the topic of the day when the Eagles returned from their bye. "It's unfortunate. Obviously, we've had a couple of incidents . . . It's just something we've gotta grow from. We've gotta hold ourselves accountable, and be more responsible, at the end of the day."