OXNARD, Calif. — After an offseason dotted with suspensions and arrests and ongoing investigations, the Dallas Cowboys finally put their foot down. In the process, they stepped on a player who turned out to be innocent.
In a remarkably ironic twist, the Prince William County (Va.) Police Department rescinded a warrant for the arrest of Cowboys wideout Lucky Whitehead late Monday night – after the player was cut by the team in the wake of a shoplifting charge that surfaced unexpectedly on the opening day of training camp. But authorities have now issued a statement essentially clearing Whitehead, clarifying that the man arrested on June 22 for shoplifting wasn’t the Cowboys’ player. According to police, the man who was detained had no identification, but gave officers “… a name, date of birth, and social security number matching that of Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.”
That instigated a warrant eventually being issued on Monday for Whitehead’s arrest. The player’s agent claimed it was a case of mistaken identity and that Whitehead wasn’t even in Virginia at the time the crime was committed. The police eventually confirmed it – but only after the Cowboys cut Whitehead in the wake of the report.
Police are now searching for the man who provided the false identity and also investigating how he was able to provide exact personal information matching Whitehead. They were also clear on Whitehead’s innocence: “At this point, the police department is also confident in confirming that Mr. Whitehead’s identity was falsely provided to police during the investigation. … The police department regrets the impact these events had on Mr. Whitehead and his family.”
Ultimately, Whitehead’s agent – Dave Rich – provided police with a plane ticket that showed his client couldn’t have been in Virginia at the time of the alleged crime.
It’s a stunning reversal that now puts the Cowboys in an extremely awkward spot. Not only was Whitehead released by the team and now subject to being claimed by any other franchise, but multiple team officials and players also commented on the situation Monday – suggesting a level of responsibility that turned out to be wrong. That said, the Cowboys did frame Whitehead’s Monday release with a longer lens – mentioning a “cumulative” record of issues that triggered his dismissal from the roster. But it was also clear that Monday’s warrant appeared to be the breaking point stimulating a move.
All of this comes after an offseason that featured a handful of negative headlines involving the Cowboys, including arrests, suspensions and several high-profile reports involving running back Ezekiel Elliott. Whitehead had his own odd inclusion in that group when he made national news by taking to Instagram and reporting that someone had kidnapped his dog and was holding it for ransom. Whitehead eventually had the dog returned, but the Cowboys apparently didn’t brush it off. Whitehead also missed a road game against the New York Giants last season after missing a Saturday team meeting. His missed meeting was notable because it came after Whitehead had been out with other players and posted a wee-hours photo of himself with a woman on social media.
Asked Monday if Whitehead’s release was a matter of the Cowboys finally sending a message to a roster littered with off-field run-ins, executive vice president and head of player personnel Stephen Jones said it wasn’t.
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with anybody else,” Jones said. “It’s no different than drafting a player. Each situation stands on its own merit. I’m sure you’re aware [Whitehead has] been involved in a lot of different situations over the past 12 months. We decided it was time.”
The Cowboys also said they had done their own work on the warrant issued for Whitehead and weren’t entirely pleased with the outcome.
“As we gathered more information on that particular situation and the conversations we had with Lucky about that situation, and we put that in context with his career with us, we felt it was in the best interest to release him,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “We felt like that was good for us going forward and good for him.”
At least one thing has changed considerably since Garrett made that statement. What looked good on Monday looks far worse on Tuesday – not only for the Prince William County Police Department, but also for the Dallas Cowboys.
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