OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys released receiver and kick returner Lucky Whitehead on Monday after the third-year player was linked to a shoplifting arrest in his home state of Virginia, with his agent saying he believes it was a case of mistaken identity.
Whitehead said he “didn’t know about that” as he was escorted off the field by a member of the Cowboys’ public relations staff after the first morning walkthrough practice of training camp in Oxnard, California. He was released later in the day.
Prince William County Police Sgt. Jonathan Perok said 25-year-old Rodney Darnell Whitehead Jr. was arrested around 1:30 a.m. June 22 for taking about $40 worth of food and drink from a convenience store.
Perok said he couldn’t confirm that the man arrested was the Dallas receiver, but online records matched his name and birthdate. The Cowboys’ media guide lists Whitehead’s given first name of Rodney.
Whitehead’s agent, Dave Rich, denied that his client was arrested, saying he didn’t arrive in Virginia until about 10 hours after the arrest. Rich said Whitehead denied being arrested.
The Cowboys moved swiftly in releasing Whitehead after two defensive players were arrested during the offseason.
Cornerback Nolan Carroll was arrested on a drunken-driving charge in May, and linebacker Damien Wilson on aggravated assault charges in July. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott was involved in a bar fight in Dallas last week, but wasn’t named in the police report.
“After all this stuff that’s happened with the Dallas Cowboys organization over the last two or three years, whether you’re a fan or not, you follow it,” Rich said.
“You don’t cut a guy like this after hearing it unless you don’t believe him. They’ve given guys second chance after second chance. They didn’t believe my guy.”
Executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones dismissed the idea that the Cowboys were finally taking action against a player after an offseason filled with off-field trouble. He said the decision on Whitehead was an accumulation of incidents, without providing specifics.
Whitehead was late to a Saturday walk-through before a game at the New York Giants last December, and coach Jason Garrett told him not to join the team flight. He was also involved in a car accident that Garrett learned about through media reports.
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with anybody else,” Jones said. “I’m sure you’re aware he’s been involved in a lot of different situations over the past 12 months and decided it was time.”
Garrett said any case of mistaken identity was beside the point for the Cowboys.
“In handling the situation and evaluating with the authorities there and in talking to him, we just didn’t feel like it’s in the best interest of the Cowboys to have him with us,” Garrett said.
Garrett rejected a comparison between the more serious charges facing Carroll and Wilson and the lesser one facing Whitehead.
“We have a number of players who through of their career, they’ve made mistakes,” Garrett said. “We’ve held them accountable. They’ve responded the right way and they’ve done a great job for our team both on and off the field. If a player isn’t ready to respond to that, time and time again, it’s time to move on.”
The Cowboys drafted Ryan Switzer in the fourth round, and he stood out during offseason workouts while Whitehead nursed a hamstring injury. Whitehead’s roster spot was already in jeopardy.
“We feel like we’ve given Lucky a lot of different chances along the way going back to last year and I think just decided it was time to go in a different direction,” Jones said.
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