PHILADELPHIA — Add departed cornerback Brandon Boykin to the list of former Philadelphia Eagles employees who have suggested there is a disconnect between head coach Chip Kelly and certain African-American men.
And color Kelly surprised and maybe even a little hurt by the latest allegations.
Boykin, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional draft pick on Saturday night, wrote in a text message to Comcast's Derrick Gunn that Kelly is "uncomfortable around grown men of our culture. … He can't relate and that makes him uncomfortable. He likes total control of everything, and he don't like to be uncomfortable. Players excel when you let them naturally be who they are, and in my experience that hasn't been important to him, but you guys have heard this before me."
Kelly on Sunday admitted to being stunned, especially after the interaction he described the night before, when they shook hands and embraced before Boykin left for Pittsburgh.
"I like Brandon," Kelly said in his press conference before practice on the first day of training camp. "I just don't know, I really don't know."
But as he has done following similar charges by former running back LeSean McCoy and assistant coach Tra Thomas, Kelly insisted he is not worried about a negative perception.
"I'm not," he said. "Talk to our players. Those are the guys I'm concerned with, and I have great confidence in those guys in that locker room that are getting ready to come train right now."
As expected, Kelly's players came to his defense.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins believes Boykin just didn't read Kelly the right way.
"I feel like I have a pretty strong personality," he said. "I'm pretty outspoken on what I like and what I don't like. But I know for a fact that Chip likes uniformity. And it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's not about personalities or race or whatever, it's just it being about the team.
"Sometimes that means you can't have as much swagger as you want to as far as the way you dress. But it's also the mentality that no player is bigger than anybody else. And no player is bigger than the team. I can buy into that."
Added linebacker DeMeco Ryans: "Every man has a different opinion about different people. And every man is entitled to his opinion. I don't feel that way personally. And that's all I can speak for personally. I think Chip has done a great job here. He's been great for me at this point in my career. And I think Chip is a great guy."
At Steelers camp, Boykin softened his words by saying he didn't believe Kelly was racist, but simply lacked the proper communication skills.
"When you're a player, you want to be able to relate to your coach off the field," Boykin told reporters at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, where the Steelers hold camp. "There were times he just didn't talk to people. You would walk down the hallway, he wouldn't say anything to you. I'm not saying he's a racist in any way."
Still, Boykin's description of Kelly was remarkably similar to that of former cornerback Cary Williams, who never brought race into the picture, but did say that players weren't able to be themselves under the third-year coach.
Nevertheless, another race cloud ironically passed over the NovaCare Complex with remarkable timing.
Despite Kelly assuring everyone before practice that all 89 players in camp were totally unrestricted by injury, running back DeMarco Murray was held out of 7-on-7s and team scrimmages.
He was made off limits to the media after practice.
It's possible Murray could have hurt himself in the opening periods of practice, when he went through an obstacle course with a rubber band for resistance around his waist.
Murray stayed on the field throughout, however.
Kendricks staying put
When Boykin's trade was announced Saturday night, it left a nervous fan base to wonder if gifted and productive but undersized inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks would be next.
Kelly alleviated those fears on Sunday.
"Mychal Kendricks is not going anywhere," he asserted. "I can tell you that right now. You can write that down in ink, not pencil."
Chronicles of Riddick
Pennridge High School graduate and former Eagles executive Lou Riddick, now an ESPN analyst, is buying into what Kelly is selling.
"I would advise everyone to calm down and let him do his thing," he said. "There's a reason why Jeffrey Lurie brought him in here, there's a reason why he's been successful where he's been and there's a reason why they won as many games as they won last year. It's not because he doesn't know what he's doing.
"Just let him be. Just let him be and see what happens. If he falls on his face, you think he doesn't know the risks that he's taking? Everyone will have their chance to take shots then. But just let him do his thing. And then, what does that bring? You can either praise him or cut him down, whatever you want to do. But just let him do his thing."
This and that
CB Nolan Carroll continues to close on a starting spot. He was around the ball all day and never seemed out of position. … Despite never playing the position before, rookie DB JaCorey Shepherd looks like the top choice at present to take over the nickel role vacated by Boykin. Considering the same dynamic was already in place for corner-turned-safety Walter Thurmond, should anyone be surprised? … Matt Tobin looks like the man to beat at right guard with the new-look offensive line. Allen Barbre is seemingly a lock to start at left guard following the release of Evan Mathis. … The good news for former starting S Earl Wolff is that he practiced fully on his microfracture surgically repaired knee without any complications. The bad? All the lost time has dropped him to third team, which means he is in a battle just to make the roster now. But he's keeping a good attitude. "I control what I can control," he said. "I'm just coming out here working every day, busting my butt every day to get better, to look better, to be more confident in everything. Honestly, my goal is to start. I'm going to battle out with whoever. However I've got to do it, at the end of the day, regardless of what happens, I just want to be able to say I did my best, I gave my all."