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Long-Term Goals Driving Chris Cooley In Rehabilitation From Knee Injury
ASHBURN – It wasn’t until late June that Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley recognized there were still lingering issues in his surgically repaired left knee – at which point it was nearly impossible for him to do anything about it.
Cooley, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee in early January, said yesterday he is “a casualty for the season of the lockout,” citing the premature ending of his season and the five-month NFL work stoppage that prevented him from receiving what he believes would have been adequate medical treatment.
“I think it was a shame that they didn’t let players who had surgery spend time with the doctors and trainers that they trust on a daily basis,” Cooley said. “I wish they could have. I think that what I went through in July, I think I could have went through in March.”
Cooley spoke for the first time since being placed on injured reserve by the team Tuesday afternoon and did so in candid detail about his issues with the left knee, in which he originally tore the medial meniscus in 2005.
It was after last season that he decided to have the procedure done – one he admitted he doesn’t know was entirely necessary, given hindsight – with the hopes of ending any lingering pain. But without proper care and rehabilitation, it began to get inflamed led to tendonitis.
“To be honest with you, it hurt to run 10 yards,” Cooley said. “I could admit it to myself and to our coaches. I wouldn’t say it to anybody else.”
Cooley had the knee drained of fluid approximately 15 times since the start of the season and was content to continue doing so through the final nine weeks. There was discussion before the season began about placing Cooley on the physically-unable-to-perform list, which would have kept him inactive until now, until all parties were convinced Cooley was ready.
“We probably should have went in that direction to start with, [but] we felt that Chris was feeling good and he indicated to us that he felt like he’d be ready to go,” said head coach Mike Shanahan.
After breaking his left index finger against Philadelphia on Oct. 16, Cooley was facing nearly a month off from any physical contact. He met with team orthopedist James Andrews at Carolina on Sunday and flew down to Pensacola, Fla. after the Redskins’ game against the Panthers, where he underwent another MRI and X-ray to evaluate the progress of the knee.
Though no additional procedures took place, Cooley said microfracture surgery, in which small breaks are made in the surrounding bone to form additional cartilage, may remain an option. That may only lead to a 50 percent chance of a fully recovery, Cooley said, and may not even solve all issues given the spread of the inflammation.
Cooley, 29, vowed that he’ll be back next season and said he hasn’t even considered the possibility of his career being over. He won’t make the trip to Toronto tomorrow afternoon with his teammates when they prepare to play Buffalo on Sunday, but will make the trip for the rest of the road games.
He believes he can continue to “play tight end at a very high level,” and after becoming the Redskins’ all-time leader in receptions by a tight end earlier this season, he’s only got one goal in mind – winning a Super Bowl.
When he attended Super Bowl XLIV nearly two years ago, his lasting thought was not of the game, but of the pride he felt when watching New Orleans players run onto the field.
“I watched those guys run out of the tunnel and thought, ‘Nothing would ever compare to that.’ Nothing would beat the feeling of running on the field to play in the Super Bowl and be a part of a team that won the Super Bowl,” Cooley said. “I don’t want to run through the tunnel in another uniform. I don’t want to finish my career looking at a team that could win the Super Bowl and say, ‘I want to go anywhere just to win the Super Bowl.’ This will be the only team I care about the rest of my life and I want to do it with this team.”