Oakland Raiders: Conley’s Inconsistent Story A Real Cause For Concern

Mar 5, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive back Gareon Conley speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive back Gareon Conley speaks to the media during the 2017 combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie made a surprising and controversial in the first round of the NFL Draft – a decision that is now raising some legitimate causes for concern.

When Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie used his first round pick (twenty-fourth overall) on cornerback Gareon Conley, it raised some eyebrows. Not just because many believed the Raiders had bigger holes to fill, but because Conley is facing serious criminal allegations – an accusation of rape.

Immediately following the Draft, McKenzie talked with the media, explaining that the organization had done their due diligence and that they were comfortable with Conley’s situation, confident that he’d be cleared all wrong-doing. Yet now, there are conflicting accounts, changing stories, and plenty of cause for real concern

And because of those concerns McKenzie has got to be sweating bullets about it, even if he’s not saying so publicly.

Just after his selection of Conley, McKenzie was bombarded with questions about the cornerback’s pending legal situation. And McKenzie is nothing, if not thorough, and assured everybody that he’d done his homework and it was all good.

"“We did our due diligence throughout this whole process. We trust our research, reports, everything that we have on Mr. Conley. We feel really good about picking Gareon Conley and having him join the Raiders team and having him be a great teammate for our players…. the bottom line is that we’ve done miles and miles of research to make sure we were totally comfortable with our decision, which we were.”"

And if that’s all there was to the story, that would be one thing. But it’s unfortunately, for all involved, not all there is the story.

Conley, for his part , has denied the allegations against him. He even referenced a couple of witness statements that supported his version of events as his proof that the allegations are false. In a statement to the media, Conley said:

"“These allegations appear to be an attempt to ruin this once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and my family. There were several witnesses including another female, who were present the entire time and have given statements that give an accurate account of what took place.”"

The sum total of the “accurate” accounts of that night, given by two of his friends who were there, was that “nothing” happened between Conley and his accuser. According to their statements – the statements Conley has repeatedly asserted are accurate – Conley not only did not have sex with his accuser, but he never touched her in any way, whatsoever.

And yet, following his interview with Cleveland police after the Draft, Conley’s story then shifted. After that interview, Conley’s lawyer acknowledged that there was a “consensual sexual event” between Conley and his accuser.

Next: So, What Exactly Is McKenzie's Plan At Linebacker?

Going from “nothing happened” to a “consensual sexual event” between the two is quite a shift in the story. Even if the “sexual act” truly was consensual.

By changing his story – even if he’s completely innocent – he’s opened the door to making this a he-said/she-said fight in court – if it ever gets to that point. The inconsistency in the witness accounts and his own statement to police have given a prosecutor all the ammunition they need to go after Conley, if they so choose.

They say that indictments are about the easiest things to get. Conley may have just made it even easier. In a game where credibility is everything, Conley just handed prosecutors every reason to doubt his.

Oakland Raiders
Oct 15, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley (8) during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Ohio State won 30-23. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

And of course, if there is a trial, Conley’s chances of escaping punishment are about 50/50. It will all come down to who is more credible in the eyes of a jury – Conley, or his accuser. And with jury trials, there is no guarantee one way or the other.

Conley’s lawyer said he expects the resolution of the case to be about six to eight weeks down the road. Which, depending on whether or not a prosecutor decides to press forward with a criminal case, might be a little bit optimistic. This is a cloud that could potentially be hanging over not just Conley’s head, but the collective heads of the entire organization all season long – with no guarantee of a positive outcome.

For all we know, Conley very well may be innocent of any wrongdoing. This may be exactly what he says it is – a case of somebody else trying to cash in on his success. But the inconsistency in his story has potentially muddied the waters enough that the truth of it all gets lost in the shuffle.

McKenzie is making the rounds, expressing his belief that Conley is innocent and will be cleared of all charges. But then, what else would you expect him to say in the position he’s in?

With the team potentially a couple of players away from contending for a championship, inside linebacker being arguably their biggest position of need, impact players like Reuben Foster and Zach Cunningham – players who could have filled that need – still on the board, McKenzie rolled the dice on a player like Conley, who had big red flags waving over his head.

With the possibility of having some real egg on his face, there really isn’t much else McKenzie can say at this point.

Either way, this is going to be a dark cloud that hangs over everything for a while. And if there is a trial, perhaps even longer. And despite the “miles and miles” of research McKenzie did, the inconsistencies in his story make it a very a real possibility that Conley faces some very serious real world legal consequences.

And if that happens – big if, at this point – McKenzie’s gamble may well blow up in his face and set this team back a bit. About all they can do at this point, is hold their breath and hope that the roll of the dice they took doesn’t come up snake eyes.