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Bills need to be ready for possibility LeSean McCoy ends up on exempt list

NBC Sports logo NBC Sports 6 days ago Mike Florio

FILE-This Aug. 17, 2017, file photo shows Buffalo Bills' LeSean McCoy during an NFL preseason football in Philadelphia.  McCoy is on the cusp of reaching 10,000 career yards rushing as the Bills  host the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 17. (AP Photo/Michael Perez, File) © (AP Photo/Michael Perez, File) FILE-This Aug. 17, 2017, file photo shows Buffalo Bills' LeSean McCoy during an NFL preseason football in Philadelphia. McCoy is on the cusp of reaching 10,000 career yards rushing as the Bills host the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 17. (AP Photo/Michael Perez, File)

It’s still too early in the investigation regarding the injuries inflicted on Delicia Cordon to know whether the proof will ever point to Bills running back LeSean McCoy as being in any way responsible for them. And before the situation ever would get to the point where there would be enough proof to convict McCoy of a crime, there could be enough proof to result in the placement of McCoy on the Commissioner Exempt List.

The league has broad power to suspend a player with pay. It can happen when the player is formally charged with a crime of violence. It also can happen when an NFL investigation “leads the Commissioner to believe” that a crime of violence may have been committed. If the Commissioner simply believe McCoy “may” have been responsible for the injuries, the Commissioner “may act where the circumstances and evidence warrant doing so.” And here’s the key point: “This decision will not reflect a finding of guilt or innocence and will not be guided by the same legal standards and considerations that would apply in a criminal trial.”

In other words, the NFL will do whatever it thinks it needs to do. Recent history tells us that the decision will be influenced largely by P.R. considerations. Given the vicious nature of the attack on Cordon and the graphic photos that have been made public, the NFL may feel compelled to keep McCoy off the field unless and until he is fully exonerated by the justice system, or until the NFL decides whether he did or didn’t do it under the league’s much lower standard of proof.

At this point, no one knows where this will go. Which means that the Bills will need to be ready to replace McCoy as the team’s top tailback. Which could result in a trade, or in the signing of a free agent, like Adrian Peterson or DeMarco Murray.

Wherever this goes, the Bills need a plan — and they need to be ready to implement the plan on fairly short notice. McCoy arguably is the best player on the team; if the Bills hope to be competitive in 2018, they’ll need a strong alternative, and they’ll need to be ready to find that alternative before they actually need him.

There’s another outcome that can’t be ruled out. If the Bills come to the conclusion that there’s a chance McCoy is responsible for the injuries inflicted on Cordon, they could decide to part ways with McCoy. Under that scenario, they would definitely need a plan for moving forward without him.

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