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LESEAN MCCOY'S SIX seasons in Philadelphia established him not only as a star -- he's the NFL's third-leading rusher since being drafted in 2009 -- but also as an icon for the Eagles. That changed in March, when the team shipped him to Buffalo, where he agreed to a five-year, $40 million deal. McCoy recently sat down with The Mag to discuss his trade to Buffalo, his impressions of coach Rex Ryan and whether there is a race issue with his former coach, the Eagles' Chip Kelly.
The Mag: You've spent your entire life in Pennsylvania -- as a kid in Harrisburg, going to college in Pittsburgh and then playing in Philadelphia. How does it feel to be in a different state and different environment?
McCoy: It's a lot different. Everybody who's been influential in my life was just a phone call away, an hour away, two hours at the most. And everybody got to see me play -- friends I grew up with, families that have supported me, coaches. My son, I could see him as much as I wanted. But it's a business. I'm happy here. Great coaching staff. It's actually a nice city. I don't think they give it enough credit. There's a lot to do here. Also, Toronto is down the street. That's always fun.
There was a report that at first you didn't want to come here.
To be honest, I didn't want to come. I really didn't. I was so angry at first. You take a guy who's made his whole name and career in Philadelphia and move him. I didn't know anything about Buffalo, so I didn't want to go. But when you sit back and you really analyze just the good things here, it makes a lot of things better.
Has your impression of Buffalo changed in the past couple of months?
The first thing you think is, "Oh, it's cold, there's nothing to do." But the people in the city were so helpful, so nice. Then the second thing was the players. They're really talented. People don't know that. They haven't been to the playoffs in a long time, so there hasn't been anything too positive footballwise. But things change. I think the owners, the Pegulas, have done a great job of getting the right personnel and coaches here to change this thing around.
You gave the impression when you first got here that you didn't feel like you were appreciated or wanted in Philadelphia.
I just think it was tough to be thinking every year, "Am I on the team? Am I off the team?" I guess here, it's like, "This is my team. They're giving me a lot of room to be the guy here." And that's how I like it. I want to be the guy that leads the team to victories.
You've had three practices with Rex at the helm. What is his personality like on the field?
Laid back. He wants the guys to have fun. It's work, but enjoy it. His approach is how a player approaches it. It's no surprise, because in his family, football is everything. You can just see that in the way he runs everything.
What are the similarities and differences between Rex and Chip?
There are no similarities. I think they're totally different.
You told The Philadelphia Inquirer in April that Chip doesn't "like or respect stars." What was the problem with you and Chip, and how did that relationship end?
The relationship was never really great. I feel like I always respected him as a coach. I think that's the way he runs his team. He wants the full control. You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest. That's the truth. There's a reason. ... It's hard to explain with him. But there's a reason he got rid of all the black players -- the good ones -- like that. [The Eagles declined to comment on McCoy's statements.]
How many other players have shared that thought with you?
Oh, man. People have heard it. I mean ... Stephen A. Smith has talked about it. Other players have talked about it. But that's one of the things where you don't even care no more. I'm on a new team, ready to play. So it's nothing to do with Chip. I have no hatred toward him, nothing to say negative about him. When he got [to Philadelphia], I didn't know what to expect. When he let DeSean go last year, I was like: "C'mon. DeSean Jackson?" So it is what it is.
You'll be going back to Philly in December. What do you think that experience will be like for you?
I do love the Eagles' fans. I have nothing but great memories there, so I'm excited to go back. I'm sure that they'll show me some love. I have nothing but love for that city.
You're 26 now, and there's a thought in the NFL that running backs fall off a cliff at 27. Are you going to fall off a cliff this year?
Nah. I'm gonna show them this year. There's guys like Frank Gore who are still playing very well. DeMarco Murray is older than me. Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch -- all the best backs are older than me. So I don't believe that.
There's also a thought that running backs are devalued in the NFL today. Do you think that's true?
I don't think so. You look at the top guys, they carry their teams -- Adrian Peterson, Lynch. The Chiefs wouldn't have an offense without Charles. At the top of the market, they pay the backs the right way. So it's hard to say they devalue us when they're paying us top dollar.
Compared with two seasons ago, some of your numbers were down last year. Did injuries and the offensive line play a role?
That's no excuse, but it happens in football. Two years ago, we had all the guys healthy for 17 weeks. Last year we weren't healthy. But that's football. I think it was a solid year. I was third in rushing. I look forward to getting back in that top three and being back at the top of the charts and getting it going again.
It's been said that you dance too much in the backfield, that you're not a one-cut runner. How do you respond to that?
I don't. For what? I let my numbers speak for themselves. I really do. I mean, all of these one-cut runners, you put their numbers up against mine, they're not even close.
What kind of player would you describe yourself as?
A playmaker. I make plays. In the air, on the ground, one cut or a million cuts -- I don't think it matters.
You signed a five-year deal with the Bills. How long do you see yourself playing?
I'll see. I'm going on my seventh year. Told myself 10 years, but we'll see what happens. That's a long time.