Cowboys back Spillman in yet another PR challenge

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IRVING, Texas (AP) — C.J. Spillman practiced Thursday with the Dallas Cowboys a day after his name surfaced in a sexual assault investigation. Not far away, Josh Brent was in a weight room working out on an exercise bike.

America's team is in the midst of an unusual public relations nightmare, with owner Jerry Jones embroiled in a sexual assault lawsuit even as he steadfastly supports Brent, who is back after his arrest two years ago in a drunken-driving crash that killed a teammate.

The Cowboys are also standing behind Spillman, with coach Jason Garrett saying the special teams player will remain active because he hasn't been arrested or charged in a police investigation into his role in an alleged assault last month at a suburban Dallas hotel.

"We've been very clear with our team about consequences that there will be if there is a situation where charges or arrests are made for a crime," Garrett said. "That doesn't apply in this particular case."

Brent was convicted of intoxication manslaughter earlier this year in the 2012 wreck that killed practice squad player Jerry Brown. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail but avoided a long prison term. He was suspended for the first 10 games, but allowed to rejoin his teammates for limited work at the practice facility Monday, two weeks earlier than the league originally ruled.

"I think they're two separate situations," said tight end Jason Witten, a team leader in his 12th season. "Josh, he did serve his time. I think with C.J., we just don't know enough. But as I said before, the expectations and standards for us are high and it needs to be high."

The team was aware of the allegation against Spillman within hours of it being reported, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team wasn't commenting on the investigation.

Police spokesman Sgt. Robert Eberling said Wednesday night that the alleged assault took place early Sept. 20 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine. The Cowboys flew to St. Louis later that Saturday, and the 28-year-old Spillman played on special teams against the Rams the next day. He has played in all four games, including last weekend at home against New Orleans, and is listed as a safety though he hasn't played on defense.

Eberling said no other details were being released because the investigation is ongoing.

"He'll take part in everything with our football team at this time unless the circumstances change," Garrett said. "You have to be careful with just accusations and allegations in this situation. When someone is officially charged or arrested for something, that's when it becomes a different situation in our minds."

The NFL has offered to interview the alleged victim "on a confidential and appropriate basis to obtain more information." League spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL has been "looking into the matter and will continue to do so."

In a statement last week, attorney Gloria Allred said she wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to inform him that she was representing a woman who reported to police that she was raped by an NFL player on the same day of the alleged incident in Grapevine. Allred said Thursday she was "not confirming or denying" that was it was related to the investigation involving Spillman.

Allred said the person facing the sexual assault allegation went to the police station with "a representative of his NFL team." Garrett wouldn't comment on whether Cowboys officials were assisting Spillman, who signed Sept. 1 after his release in San Francisco, where he spent most of his first five seasons.

The situation involving Spillman, who wasn't in the locker room when it was open to reporters Thursday, comes while the Cowboys are waiting to see if a judge will throw out a civil lawsuit accusing Jones of sexual assault five years ago. Jones' attorneys are arguing that the statute of limitations has expired.

Witten said the franchise has taken a strong stance on issues of domestic violence while the league has faced criticism for its handling of several cases.

"I think this organization's always been front and center and clear with what the expectations are for the players and really all the staff," Witten said. "They demand that and they expect that. And I think that's great."

The alleged assault came less than 24 hours after Goodell held a news conference over concerns about domestic violence cases. Goodell and the league were widely criticized over a two-game suspension for Baltimore running back Ray Rice after he knocked out his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator.

The commissioner later acknowledged the punishment was too light and said future first offenses in domestic violence cases would result in six-game bans. When an explosive video surfaced showing Rice punching the woman, he was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the league.

The NFL also has been rocked by a pair of alleged assault cases last month that sidelined running backs Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and Jonathan Dwyer in Arizona.



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