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Daryl Bell: Staying deaf to distractions, Eagles ready to make a loud statement

December 2, 2017 GMT

The Philadelphia Eagles have a statement game Sunday against the homestanding Seattle Seahawks.

Forget about the Eagles being 10-1 and having the best record in the National Football League. Forget about the Seahawks being 7-4. This is December, the month where champions are developed and pretenders are exposed.

Since September, the Eagles have been rolling past opponents. Except for a glitch in the second game of the season at Kansas City, no team has found a way to defeat the Birds. Whatever Doug Pederson has been doing or saying to keep his team operating at peak efficiency, he needs to keep it up.

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During a championship season, strange things happen. Players who weren’t highly regarded suddenly become prominent. Injuries have an affect on how a team performs. And there are other distractions that somehow wiggle their way into making a difference in the team’s makeup.

So far, the Eagles have done well in terms of limiting the effectiveness of the distractions. Last week for example, there were some in the media who felt that newly acquired running back Jay Ajayi was acting selfishly. In a 31-3 blowout of the Chicago Bears, he had five carries for 26 yards. However, he appeared frustrated on a 30-yard run that ended when he fumbled at the goal line with 13:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. Luckily Nelson Agholor recovered the fumble in the end zone for the touchdown.

When asked about the play, Ajayi said, “My role is to run the plays that the coaches call. That’s what I’ve been doing,” Ajayi said. “I’m just running the play that the coaches call. I’m happy with my role.”

The comment was interpreted by some to mean that Ajayi, who was acquired in a trade from the Miami Dolphins a few weeks ago, isn’t happy. Ajayi says he is fine. His numbers are impressive. Through three games, he’s amassed 194 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown. That’s an average of 9.7 yards per carry.

Then there is the distraction involving defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. This week it was learned that Joshua Jeffords, a 34-year-old resident of Huntersville, N.C., filed a lawsuit against Cox, 26, on Nov. 22 alleging that Cox seduced Jeffords’s wife and carried on an “adulterous affair” with the woman, 29-year-old Catherine Cuesta Jeffords.

According to the lawsuit, filed in superior court in Mecklenburg County, N.C., Cox and Cuesta Jeffords met for the first time in April, when Cuesta Jeffords came to Philadelphia on business. She and Cox had sexual intercourse during her visit to Philadelphia, the suit claims.

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After she returned home to North Carolina, she and Cox allegedly continued the affair over text messages.

Jeffords say he confronted her about the alleged affair and asked her to stop following Cox on Instagram. According to the suit, she blocked her husband on Instagram and continued following and carrying on the affair with Cox. In October, Jeffords claims his wife packed her bags and moved to the Philadelphia area. Cox lives in Mullica Hill, N.J.

In North Carolina, adultery is not grounds for divorce but under state law, a spouse can sue their spouse’s lover in the event of an affair. Jeffords says he sought mental health treatment for “substantial emotional distress.” He’s seeking at least $50,000 in damages. Cox hasn’t commented on the suit.

And then there is the national anthem distraction. On Thursday, Malcolm Jenkins announced that he will stop raising his fist during the playing of the national anthem beginning Sunday in Seattle.

Jenkins announced his decision after the NFL and the Players Coalition joined in a partnership that calls for the league to contribute nearly $100 million over seven years to projects dealing with criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education. Jenkins, who co-founded the group, has been raising his fist since Week 2 of the 2016 season.

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid said he left the Players Coalition because founder Jenkins excluded Colin Kaepernick from meetings, and asked players if they would stop protesting the anthem if the NFL made a charitable donation to causes they support.

Reid and Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas both sent tweets Wednesday morning saying they were leaving the coalition because they didn’t believe Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin, a co-founder, shared their interests.

Winning teams find ways to overcome distractions. They remain poised on their mission to succeed. That’s why Sunday’s game is a statement game. The Eagles are loaded with talent. They work well as a unit. A victory over the Seahawks will undoubtedly take this team to a level it has never seen.

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