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The Eagles in 2012 drafted Fletcher Cox 12th overall out of Mississippi State. (USA Today Images)
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox declined to comment Thursday on a published report alleging that he received improper benefits from a booster while playing football at Mississippi State.
Given several chances to deny that he accepted improper benefits, Cox declined to deny the allegations.
Cox, the Eagles’ second-year starting defensive tackle, was among five players identified in a Yahoo! report alleging that Cox and four other former and current players from the Southeastern Conference received a total of $12,700 in benefits in violation of NCAA rules.
“Right now I can’t comment on that because basically I don’t know what’s going on, and that’s about it,” Cox said at his locker after practice. “I can’t comment on that right now.”
According to Yahoo!, booster Luther Davis, a former Alabama defensive lineman, acted as a go-between for NFL agents and players.
Cox is alleged to have received a plane ticket in December 2011 for a flight he took the first week of 2012, prior to Mississippi State’s Music City Bowl win over Wake Forest.
He declared himself eligible for the draft soon after, and the Eagles took him with the 12th pick.
Cox said Thursday he knew the story was coming out but said he was advised by his agent not to comment.
“My agent [Todd France] called me and told me about it,” he said. “I never looked at it. We’ll just go from there. Whenever we hear an [official] report on it, that’s when I’ll comment on it, but as of now, I won’t comment on it.
“I knew about it a couple days ago, and I knew it was coming out, and it came out, and like I said, no comment. ... I don’t know what’s going, and that’s it.”
The NCAA does have an exception in its by-laws that relaxes the rules governing monetary and other assistance when a player has a pre-existing relationship with the person providing him with the assistance.
And Cox said he’s known Davis since before Cox entered Mississippi State.
“I’ve been knowing Luther since high school,” he said.
But according to that particular by-law (22.214.171.124.6), even with a pre-existing relationship, there are fairly strict regulations regarding what a booster can and can’t give to a student athlete. And if the money did not originate with the booster –- for instance, if it came from an agent –- that would be an impermissible benefit.
Because Cox is not currently in college, the NCAA does not hold subpoena power over him. Of the five players identified by Yahoo!, only Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch, who is currently on the team, would be bound to speak with NCAA officials.
Cox’s Twitter timeline is full of messages from people asking him about the allegations.
“I don’t worry about those things,” Cox said. “I barely check all of that, and I’ll just go forward when I hear from my agent.”
The Eagles, 1-0, face the Chargers at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Linc in the first home game of Chip Kelly’s coaching career.
Cox said the allegations that have surfaced won’t be a distraction as he prepares for Sunday’s game.
“No kind of distraction,” he said. “I’m focused, came to practice, that’s out of my mind, I’m not thinking about that. Whatever happens, happens. No comment.”
Cox, 22, played in 15 of 16 games as a rookie last year, recording 5½ sacks, fifth-most among NFL rookies last year. He was named a first-team all-rookie pick.
Cox is earning $855,509 in base salary this year on the second year of a four-year, $10,241,198 contract that included a $5,888,144 signing bonus.