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Dalvin Cook back in big picture for FSU

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It’s official. Florida State now knows which team photo to use for 2015. Dalvin Cook is back in the FSU picture in more ways than one.

Earlier this month two team photos, one with Cook as well as a provisional without him, were taken in the event the legal system threw Cook and the Seminoles for a loss. Following his acquittal on Monday of misdemeanor battery charges, Cook returns to an FSU squad ranked tenth in national pre-season polls.

While his teammates and FSU football fans are glad that he’s back, some of the haters claim this is yet another case of a Seminole football player getting away with something. Those who make such claims were, like me, not in the courtroom.

All we should do is listen to jurors who are talking about what they heard. Their conclusions about what happened on June 23, 2015 are a bit more important.

“Everything that came out of that trial was Dalvin Cook was the one trying to defuse the situation,” juror Robert Kuhn told the Tallahassee Democrat. “Not one witness, besides (the accuser and her friend) said anything different from that.”

Kuhn said the evidence demonstrated the accuser’s split lip wasn’t the result of “a punch from a football player.” Following the verdict reached in less time it takes to play one quarter of football, Kuhn added, “It’s a shame it went to trial.”

The trial and surrounding commentary also centered on the fact this did not sound like the Dalvin Cook friends, family and teammates know. An eyewitness neither connected to Cook nor the FSU football team testified Cook never hit anyone.

Let us not forget the accuser. Something happened to her and she suffered some kind of injury. No one is happy about that, but the facts show she was not punched by Cook or anyone possessing the power and strength of a football player.

Those who want to repeat the nonsense that another football player is getting away with something are free to offer their opinion. They can unsuccessfully try to compare this case to the one involving former freshman quarterback De’Andre Johnson.

Johnson did not get away with anything. He was removed from the team after video evidence proved he actually did punch a woman.

They can unsuccessfully try to compare Cook’s case to the Jameis Winston saga. While State Attorney Willie Meggs lacked sufficient evidence to bring rape charges against Winston, the former Heisman Trophy winner, unlike Cook, demonstrated character flaws on other occasions.

Last year, the Tallahassee Police Department turned over more than 300 incident reports involving FSU athletes. Some detailed actual transgressions, while many did not. Cook is mentioned in one of them.

Anyone interested in the now concluded Cook case knows all of the facts by now. With a clear “not guilty” verdict, he rejoined the football team as he should.

Perhaps one surprise from this case was the granting of a speedy trial request. Legal experts predicted jury selection would not begin until October, nearly halfway into the season. With a trial and verdict achieved only 62 days after the event, justice was served in time for nearly two weeks of practice.

As the season gets underway, the headlines will move away from Cook on defense within the legal system to Cook igniting the Seminoles’ offense. He will be answering tough questions from reporters if he fumbles the ball in key situations (remember Oregon?), not from lawyers in a deposition.

By the time the season starts, Cook is unlikely to even be the focus of attention. Instead, Everett Golson, Sean Maguire and the battle for the starting quarterback slot will now take center stage.

Both, along with Cook, are making their case on the practice field.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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