The Dallas Cowboys have had their share of off-the-field distractions the past few years, with the Josh Brent story undoubtedly the biggest. This season has been relatively quiet in that area, while other teams have been dealing with much bigger issues, such as those surrounding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.
Recently, a story has cropped up involving DeMarco Murray, who has garnered a great deal of positive attention as the leading rusher in the NFL. As covered originally by Deadspin, Brennan Clay, another running back from the University of Oklahoma, has made accusations against Murray. Clay, who was on the Sooner team with Murray in 2010, accused him, on Twitter, of having an affair with Clay's wife. This was the Tweet that started it all:
By the next day, reports were out in places like the New York Post that Clay was filing for divorce from his wife of four months, Gina D'Agostini, apparently because of his belief that she was involved with Murray. Clay has stated that Murray was his "idol" at Oklahoma, but made a rapid reevaluation after he made a disturbing discovery.
However, that all changed when Clay found an old cellphone of D'Agostini's, which contained more than 50 "inappropriate" text messages with Murray.
In addition to the text messages, he reportedly found "graphic" pictures he believed the two sent each other.
It is unclear just when the messages and pictures were sent, or if this is about a relationship that ended or is still ongoing. (According to a quick internet search, D'Agostini lives and works in the Dallas area.) For that matter, there is no conclusive evidence about just how legitimate Clay's accusations are. Murray and Clay, who was a UDFA cut by the Denver Broncos this year, only overlapped the last year Murray was at Oklahoma, and while Clay was a freshman. The entire situation is a little undefined.
With the Cowboys at crossroads this week, needing to get a win against the Chicago Bears to keep their playoff hopes reasonable, they do not need a major distraction. However, there is a little doubt that this would ever be much of one. It does not involve any criminal activity or risk of disciplinary action by the NFL. While Murray may see some fallout for his own relationship with the mother of his child, Heidi Mueller, it is not the kind of thing that would have a significant impact on his ability to maintain focus on how he plays the game of football. And, however you may feel about the issues of infidelity and promiscuity, Murray is hardly the first professional athlete to be involved in morally inappropriate conduct. When it comes down to it, the thing the team and the fans are most concerned about is how well he performs on the field.
Within the Dallas sport media, there is a debate, as discussed by Mike Fisher, about whether this is something that should be covered. The argument is that this is all personal, and since it is not illegal, it is pretty much off limits. Fisher was involved in a radio discussion of that, and he takes the view that there has to be a question of whether this will affect Murray's play in any way. That, of course, is going to be very hard to determine for a player who is having the best year of his career, but who also has had more fumbles this season than before. If Murray continues to maintain a healthy lead over the rest of the running backs in the league, then this will probably just fade away into nothing. However, he has not been quite as dominating of late. That seems to be more because of an overall bad performance by the offense than any possible distraction, but at some point, the topic of whether he is losing focus because of Clay's accusations or associated events in his life will surface.
Hopefully, he will finish out the year strongly, and this entire situation will not spend too much time in the glare of media attention. It is really just about how a few people resolve the conflicts and issues in their relationships. It has almost nothing to do with football, other than that one of the people involved is also one of the real standouts this season for the NFL, and for the Cowboys.
It doesn't deserve much attention, really. Yet this is an article about it, because we can't really ignore it. So we mostly hope it will just go quietly away.