FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Lucky Whitehead is fully focused on football again after a bizarre week during which he lost his job and was entangled in a curious legal situation.
The wide receiver-kick returner was claimed off waivers by the New York Jets on Wednesday, two days after the Dallas Cowboys cut him following a shoplifting charge in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
“It’s been crazy,” Whitehead said after practice Saturday . “A lot’s been going on. I’m just happy to get an opportunity to start over and clean my slate.”
In June, a man used Whitehead’s identity to steal $40 worth of food and drink from a Virginia convenience store. After reports surfaced that Whitehead was arrested and subsequently cited for missing a court hearing, Dallas released him.
When the charges against Whitehead were announced, his agent, Dave Rich, said Whitehead wasn’t in Virginia at the time of the arrest. Police subsequently said they were seeking the man who used the name Rodney Darnell Whitehead Jr. — the receiver’s given name.
“It was very confusing,” Whitehead said of being cut by Dallas. “I came off the field and found out that I had an arrest warrant that I didn’t know about. And, it was kind of shocking with the whole release thing. That whole situation, I was kind of just, (let’s) figure out what was going on and clear my name. It was just kind of a twist.”
Whitehead added that he still isn’t quite sure why the Cowboys parted ways with him after two seasons. He played in in 30 games for Dallas and averaged 25.6 yards on 33 kick returns and 6.9 yards on 44 punt returns. Whitehead also had nine receptions.
“The explanation? I don’t think I really got an explanation,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate situation and things happen. I’m excited to be here and I’m glad they gave me a chance to start over.”
Dallas executive vice president Stephen Jones and coach Jason Garrett said earlier this week that Whitehead’s release was an accumulation of events. Garrett also acknowledged that the decision came after the Cowboys did more work gathering information.
Whitehead was left at home last December for a game at the New York Giants after missing a team walkthrough the previous day. He also involved in a car accident that Garrett found out about through media reports.
The Jets are desperate for help at receiver and in the return game, both areas in which Whitehead could provide a boost.
“I’ll move on, try to build a chemistry with these guys here,” Whitehead said. “I’m building, I’m learning. … I can help them in any way I can. I’m going to try to make this roster and be a playmaker.”