Joseph Randle was the Dallas Cowboys’ starting running back just over a year ago and was then released mid-season. It seems like longer, but time flies in NFL years. Players who were starters get replaced, the new stars come in. Life moves on. So what happened to Randle?
Sports Illustrated’s Dan Greene published a longform piece on Randle and his various issues today. Randle, who has been out of the league since his release, has a litany of legal issues and behavioral incidents. There are genuine questions about his mental health. In light of some of the details in the piece, there are also questions about how Dallas handled the end of his time there.
It all started with what would be his final play with Dallas:
As Randle fell forward, his head appeared to collide with the ground. He lingered on the turf for a moment before tackle Tyron Smith helped him to his feet. McFadden tagged in, and moments later TV cameras found Randle on the sideline with his helmet off. Fox’s sideline correspondent, Erin Andrews, reported the official word from the Cowboys: a “rib/muscle strain.”
Randle already had a history by then — the Dillard’s department store underwear theft happened the year before, as had a domestic incident that would ultimately result in a 4-game suspension handed down after his release — but his ex-girlfriend, Avina Rodriguez, says that he exhibited several issues right after that game. He would ask questions multiple times, abandon conversations suddenly, and claimed that he was having trouble remembering plays.
“I asked him multiple times: Did you pass the concussion test? Do you have a concussion?” Rodriguez recalls. “And he would kind of gaze out—you know when people daydream? It felt like he was daydreaming a lot. I’m like, Joseph, what’s going on?” On the Tuesday after the Giants game, Jones announced that McFadden, who had run for 152 yards in relief, would get the next start. On Wednesday, Randle sat out practice with a reported oblique strain and left Valley Ranch early.
Then, a bizarre incident happened where Randle called 911 worried about his ex-girlfriend, exhibiting some paranoia. She was at nursing school, and arrived home with authorities, and several representatives from the Dallas Cowboys present, including the in-house mental health specialist. Again, Rodriguez claimed she asked about a concussion.
As Randle drove off in a huff, Rodriguez pressed Cowboys reps about whether her boyfriend had been evaluated yet for a concussion. “They said he didn’t have any signs in New York,” she recalls. “I was like, Well, was he checked out today? Monday? They said no.”
At this point, if this is true, you had a player exhibiting issues and and a girlfriend had asked about a concussion check specifically. The next week, Jerry Jones made the following public comment:
“It doesn’t deserve a real knee-jerk reaction as to [the] roster,” he said. “[I’ll] be patient relative to just the sensitivity of anybody that’s going through some trying times. Then we want to really be supportive and help when we can. . . . It’s up to me to . . . let him work through these other issues.”
Immediately after those statements, Randle agreed to see a psychiatrist. Charles Haley, acting on behalf of the team, went with him. “They had a really long, good talk,” said Haley, who reported back to the team about what happened after talking with Randle.
Dallas released Randle a day later. He received a four-game suspension for an earlier incident one week after that release.
There are a couple of concerning things here. No one can truly know all of the root causes for Randle’s issues, and whether these are CTE-related behaviors or psychiatric issues that would have developed regardless of whether he played football. But, there is a report that the girlfriend, at minimum, put them on notice of concerns over his behaviors that week, and specifically asked if he was checked for a concussion. If Dallas never treated him or diagnosed him under the concussion protocol, before releasing him a week later, that’s a big problem.
The other big issue is what happened with the psychiatrist and Haley communicating the information back to the team. That was an intervening act to Jerry Jones’ comments and the team immediately releasing Randle. Why would a player ever trust a team with personal information? Yet teams frequently have access to info that they acquire, and here, there is a concern that what should have been a mentoring relationship to provide for the player turned into the reason to get rid of him.