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Giants suspend Eli Apple and may have cause to dump former first-rounder

Eli Apple was deactivated for four straight games earlier this season. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)

Citing “conduct detrimental to the team,” the New York Giants suspended cornerback Eli Apple on Wednesday for the season finale against the Washington Redskins. The move sets up the possibility that the former first-round pick, who has been benched frequently this season and has been the subject of stinging public criticism from teammate Landon Collins, could have the remaining guaranteed money on his contract voided if the team releases him.

As reported by ESPN’s Dan Graziano, the four-year deal Apple signed after becoming the 10th overall selection in 2016 allows the Giants to void his guaranteed money for 2017 and the following two years if, among other things, “Player is suspended by the NFL or by the Club” or “Player engages in conduct reasonably judged by the Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club, in Club’s sole discretion.” NFL Network reported Thursday that the Giants suspended Apple after he “got into an argument” with cornerbacks coach Tim Walton, then refused to take the field with the scout team, during practice.

The 22-year-old Ohio State product, who has been the subject of accusations of immaturity, likely further damaged his standing with the team with a comment to media members in the Giants locker room. While declining to take questions, Apple said with a chuckle, “I gotta take a [crap],” reportedly grabbing his rear end as he walked away.

Shortly after that incident, the Giants announced his suspension for Week 17. “We have suspended Eli for a pattern of behavior that is conduct detrimental to the team,” interim general manager Kevin Abrams said.

The “pattern” to which Abrams referred likely includes reported criticism by coaches of Apple’s effort in games, and NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said Wednesday that the cornerback had “barked back” at Walton earlier in the season, as well as “in the vicinity” of Giants co-owner Frank Mara. “I have been told by Giants sources all year long that Eli Apple has had an issue with authority, and is not taking coaching,” Garafolo said.

Earlier Wednesday, Collins apologized for saying the day before on a New York radio show that Apple was “a cancer” who should not be back with the team next season. “I met with Coach Spags [Steve Spagnuolo, the interim coach] and Eli this morning and I apologized for the things I said yesterday,” said Collins, who has claimed in the past on multiple occasions that Apple needs to “grow up,” on Twitter.

“I never stop supporting my brother/teammate Eli and the rest of my teammates as we move forward,” Collins, a Pro Bowl safety, continued. “Just want him to know I’m always here for him.”

“[Collins and I] had a quick conversation this morning, and then I had a quick conversation with Eli,” Spagnuolo said. “And then all three of us had a really good conversation and it was very productive and I’ll just leave it at that. It’s between them and they were really great.”

Spagnuolo and Abrams apparently decided that some of the actions Apple took after that meeting were less than great, and they are ending his season a week early. They may also decide to end altogether the stormy Giants career of Apple, who was described on Tuesday by Collins as “the only person I would change out of our secondary group.”

Apple was benched for much of a Week 5 loss to the Chargers reportedly for disciplinary reasons, and he was deactivated for Weeks 11 through 14. He received further punishment for tweeting during a Week 14 loss to the Cowboys, in violation of the NFL’s social-media policy. Shortly after that game, he retweeted a post that said Dallas running back Rod Smith, who played with Apple at Ohio State, “iced the New York Giants” with a long touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

While Giants reporters have noted that Apple is not popular among his teammates, Garafolo and others have also pointed out that the defensive back is going through difficult personal circumstances. His mother, with whom he is particularly close, underwent brain surgery this fall, and she has also separated from Apple’s longtime stepfather, reportedly causing a schism within the family.

Now Apple’s tenure with the Giants is in jeopardy, as his suspension may allow the team to move on from him without as much of a financial penalty. The 2-13 squad, which fired head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese earlier this month, is set to make a number of changes in the offseason, among them could be a decision to dump a troubled but also troublesome player.

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