Like siblings, teammates don’t always get along; sometimes they might even come to blows in certain situations. It’s rare, however, for a player to call out one of his current teammates on the record and disparage them.
But New York Giants safety Landon Collins did just that on Tuesday, calling fellow defensive back Eli Apple “a cancer” in an interview with ESPN 98.7 in New York.
Collins, a 2015 second-round pick who was a first-team All-Pro last year and last week was named to his second straight Pro Bowl (he won’t get to play after breaking his arm on Sunday), was asked what he would tell the new general manager and head coach the Giants are searching for about the other members of the team’s secondary:
“There’s one corner that has to establish [himself] and needs to grow, and we all know who that is,” Collins said. “That would be the only person I would change out of our secondary group. The other two guys — DRC [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] and Jack Rabbit [Janoris Jenkins] — I love those two guys. They play hard. They love what they do. But, that first pick, he’s a cancer.”
“That first pick” is Apple, who was the 10th overall pick last year. This has been a trying second season for the Ohio State product, to say the least.
As a rookie, Apple started 11 games and played in 14. But this year, he’s played in 11, with seven starts, and reports say that behind the scenes he’s been something of a headache.
A recent story by Dan Duggan, Giants beat writer for NJ.com, details much of the drama.
Via Duggan, in the first four games of the season, Apple gave up 21 catches for 234 yards and four touchdowns, and was also flagged for two pass interference penalties in that span. He was benched for the first three series of the fifth game, against the Los Angeles Chargers, reportedly for talking back to a coach at practice.
Apple told reporters he was unhappy with the benching, and alluded to being used as the scapegoat for the Giants’ problems.
He wasn’t the only cornerback in New York to get in trouble with coaches: in subsequent weeks, Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins were each suspended for a week by the team.
However, there have not been public questions about the effort Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins give on the field – there have about Apple. He seemed to give little effort in a game against San Francisco in Week 9, and was targeted in film review by teammates. Apple’s response was to threaten to leave the facility.
He missed two days of practice after that film session, in mid-November, to be by his mother Annie’s bedside as she underwent brain surgery. He was a healthy scratch for the game that followed, against Kansas City, and then was inactive the following week, on Thanksgiving against Washington.
Then-Giants coach Ben McAdoo cited lack of practice reps as the reason Apple was kept out of both games.
He would miss two more before being re-inserted into the lineup for New York’s Dec. 17 game against Philadelphia; he also played last Sunday, against Arizona.
Collins had previously said that he offered Apple support throughout the season, but the next day Apple told reporters he hadn’t spoken to Collins, and Collins, angered at the implication he is a liar, had to be restrained by teammates from going after Apple, Duggan wrote.
A third Giants player told Duggan that Collins wouldn’t be the first player that “wanted to kick (Apple’s) ass.”
But according to Duggan, the origins of Apple’s problems this season might go beyond the facility: Annie and Tim Apple, the man who raised Eli and his brothers as his own from the time Eli was a toddler, got divorced in May of this year, and Tim Apple hasn’t spoken to Eli in months.
Additionally, one of Eli’s half-brothers alleges that Annie, the outspoken mother who has written for Sports Illustrated and appeared on camera for ESPN, is Apple’s “biggest downfall” and that she has taken almost complete control of his life.
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