Eagles guard Josh Sills, shown here in an August 2022 preseason game, has been indicted on rape and kidnapping charges. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Eagles backup offensive guard Josh Sills was indicted on one count each of rape and kidnapping in his home state of Ohio, the state’s Attorney General’s Office announced on Wednesday. Both counts are first-degree felonies.

The indictment is based on a December 2019 incident in which “Sills engaged in sexual activity that was not consensual and held a victim against her will,” according to a news release from the Ohio AG. 

“The crime was immediately reported,” the statement continued, “and the Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office conducted a detailed investigation.”  

The incident occurred over two years before Sills, 25, joined the team.

Sills’s attorney, Michael Connick, has maintained the allegations against the player are false, according to the Associated Press.

With all eyes on the Eagles as they prepare for Super Bowl LVII, how is the team handling the matter — and what are the potential consequences of the indictment? Here’s what we know.

How have the Eagles and NFL reacted?

The same day as the indictment, the NFL placed Sills on what’s known as the Commissioner Exempt List, meaning he is not allowed to participate in games and practices or travel with the team.

“The matter will be reviewed under the NFL’s personal conduct policy,” the league said in a statement.

The Eagles on Wednesday released their own statement, saying, “The organization is aware of the legal matter involving Josh Sills. We have been in communication with the league office and are in the process of gathering more information. We have no further comment at this time.”

Will Sills be allowed to participate in the Super Bowl?

There has been no word from the NFL on whether Sills will be prevented from competing in the Super Bowl or for how long he’ll remain on the exempt list.

What role has Sills played for the Eagles? 

Sills joined the team in 2022 as an undrafted free agent. He’s only played in one Eagles game this season, in the Week 5 October matchup against the Cardinals, when he saw four snaps on special teams.

In college, Sills played for West Virginia from 2016-2019 before transferring to Oklahoma State for the 2020-21 season. He played in 52 career games with the OSU Cowboys, including 47 starts. As a senior, he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors.

Why haven’t the Eagles just cut him completely?

Firing Sills outright would be a violation of the player’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the legal document he signed outlining the terms and conditions of his employment, which likely includes a conduct clause and, in part, gives the NFL commissioner power to oversee any disciplinary action taken against a player. 

The employment contract for all NFL players also includes arbitration provisions that prevent them from filing lawsuits against their employers — and require that they give up some due process in legal situations.

If a player wants to dispute an action taken by the league, they can file a grievance. An arbitrator will determine whether the commissioner has acted fairly. 

In past cases similar to Sills’s, the NFL has launched its own investigation and determined discipline for players as their cases progress. Sills’ case will be reviewed under the NFL’s personal conduct policy, according to the league.

What role has a CBA played in the past in similar cases?

In the past, players have used an arbitrator to file a wrongful termination grievance against the NFL and argue that the commissioner’s disciplinary action was unfair. 

That’s the path taken by former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice, who in 2014 was indicted on a charge of third-degree aggravated assault. He received a two-game suspension, followed by an indefinite suspension after an NFL crackdown on domestic violence and the emergence of new evidence against him. 

Rice argued that the two-fold punishment was in violation of his CBA and he filed a wrongful termination grievance. The NFL player’s union also launched an appeal against Rice’s indefinite suspension.

A neutral arbitrator presided over the case, and Rice won the appeal; he was immediately reinstated in the NFL. His wrongful termination grievance was settled, and a judge later dropped the domestic violence charges.

As a result of Rice’s case, the NFL has bolstered their policy on doling out punishments to players.

How does the NFL usually address similar instances?

Historically, the NFL has done little to address or punish players who have committed sexual violence. 

“As football players living in the United States, these athletes have often received preferential treatment from coaches, college athletic departments, and sometimes the justice system throughout their athletic careers,” author Daniel Sailofsky wrote in a 2022 study titled “More Talent, More Leeway: Do Violence Against Women Arrests Really Hurt NFL Player Careers?.”

Most recently, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson returned to the field in December 2022 after the NFL imposed an 11-game suspension following reports by more than 24 women accusing him of sexual misconduct; two cases included instances of alleged sexual assault. Two Texas grand juries did not indict Watson, and the player denies the allegations. Watson settled with 23 of the women in civil lawsuits, and two cases remain ongoing. 

What happened that led to Sills being charged?

Sills was indicted by the Guernsey County Common Pleas Court grand jury on Tuesday on one count of kidnapping and one count of rape. The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions Section of the Attorney General’s Office.

According to the police report of the incident, filed on Dec. 5, 2019, the woman Sills allegedly kidnapped and assaulted was 21 years old at the time and had gone to high school with Sills.

Sills drove the woman and her cousin to her cousin’s house, but as the woman got out of the truck, Sills grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back inside the vehicle, the woman said in the report. Once the cousin left the truck, Sills grabbed the woman by her ponytail and tried to kiss her, continuing even after she told him to stop.

As another car approached, Sills allegedly pushed the woman into the seat by her neck so no one could see her, the report continued.

Sills then allegedly sexually assaulted the woman and grabbed her by the neck again, asking if she would continue to talk to him. The woman said she would and then ran into the house and then went to the hospital, where nurses found bruising in the back of her throat and inner lip, as well as on her right ear and back of her knee, according to the report.

The woman contacted the authorities that evening, the report said, and the deputies opened an investigation immediately.

What happens next with Sills?

Sills has not been arrested. He was issued a summons to appear in court in Ohio on Feb. 16, four days after the Eagles compete in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs in Glendale, Arizona.

Where can people impacted by sexual assault find help in Philadelphia?