Eagles' McCoy says he can handle the spotlight that comes with success

Opponents are focusing on LeSean McCoy. "There's more attention. There was a difference even in the preseason games," he said.
Opponents are focusing on LeSean McCoy. "There's more attention. There was a difference even in the preseason games," he said. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: September 06, 2012

LeSean McCoy's offseason of maturity came with more evidence that life won't be as it once was.

It came during the preseason, in the second game, as the Eagles running back tried to shake one defender after another.

"There's more attention. There was a difference even in the preseason games," McCoy said. "I can tell they're worried about me. I can tell before we played them they were like, 'McCoy, McCoy.' But I can't let that get to me, because at the end of the day it's still a team game."

McCoy said he started to see defenses focusing on stopping him near the end of last season. But that was before he was voted into his first Pro Bowl, before he was named all-pro, before the Eagles signed him to a five-year contract extension worth $45 million.

It was before his son, LeSean Jr., was born.

For a superstar tailback coming off a breakout year, McCoy had an under-the-radar preseason. The light workload was by design, coach Andy Reid said. McCoy had only nine carries and five catches in three games.

But McCoy, who is typically gregarious with the media, kept more to himself than he had in the past. He said that, too, was by design.

"I don't want to be one of those players that gets the contract and the main focus is on him," McCoy said Monday, less than a week before the Eagles open the season at Cleveland. "I don't want to be the only guy getting attention. That doesn't drive me."

Some of McCoy's attention recently has been diverted. His responsibilities increased in the spring with the arrival of his son and the signing of his new contract just weeks apart. The running back said he won't let the contract change him. He has said he's committed to being an ever-present father.

But could the weight of both affect his performance on the field?

"I can't predict the future. The only thing I can do is prevent that from happening by doing the right things," McCoy said. "I can't let distractions get in the way. Things do happen. I'd be lying if I said it won't happen at all, because I don't know."

Reid said he still sees the same bubbly McCoy he saw when the Eagles drafted the Harrisburg native out of Pittsburgh in the second round of the 2009 draft.

"He very seldom steps on the practice field or comes to work in a bad mood," Reid said. "He enjoys life. He's had to grow up with the baby. And when you get paid a lot of money, there's some . . . responsibilities that come with that."

McCoy has a small circle of confidants: his agent, Drew Rosenhaus; his publicist/manager Ishmail Kamara; and his older brother, LeRon. McCoy's parents, Ron and Daphne, still work - he at UPS and she for the state.

"My family, they still work," McCoy said. "But you go from being a kid of your house to man of the household even living with your dad or not. If anything goes wrong, you're the guy that they look to handle it."

McCoy turned 24 in July and yet he's the eldest running back on the roster by a year and a half. Dion Lewis is the only backup with NFL experience. Bryce Brown and Chris Polk are rookies. McCoy said they have looked to him for answers.

The plan heading into the season is to lighten McCoy's load. Last year, he was fourth in the NFL with 321 touches. So the youngsters are likely to spell McCoy perhaps more than he would prefer.

Reid has employed rotations in the past with Brian Westbrook, Duce Staley, and Correll Buckhalter during various stages of their careers.

"Those guys hated when I had them in a rotation. But then when they had to single up and take all the snaps they found out, 'Ah, that rotation isn't all that bad,' " Reid said. "It extends your career. It makes you stronger throughout the whole season. He'll fight it, and I'm OK with that."

McCoy will handle the majority of carries. But if the team has other weapons in the backfield, opposing defenses will have something else to plan for. Right now, they are preparing for one guy.

"You're not a secret anymore," Reid said. "But that's the fun part. You can't take it as a burden. You take it as a challenge. 'Oh, OK, that's good. Wait till you see what else I've got.' "

McCoy has said he wants to lead the NFL in rushing and break Wilbert Montgomery's team record of 1,512 yards in a season. But if he doesn't and the Eagles win, he said, that's ultimately what matters.

"I think I'm going to have a big year," McCoy said. "The only thing I don't want to do is press it. Last year, I made all-pro. I was one of the top backs in the NFL. Now I'm looked at as one of the top backs. I just want it to flow."


Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

 

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