Surprised By Chris Cooley’s Release, Niles Paul Now Aware Of Role
ASHBURN – Niles Paul considered it strange that he didn’t see Chris Cooley at all last Tuesday. He wasn’t in the locker room before practice, and he wasn’t out on the field with the rest of his teammates, either.
When Paul finally saw Cooley an hour or so later, the veteran tight end dressed in a blue polo shirt and jeans, Paul thought something was up.
Cooley, as it turns out, had been negotiating his release from the Washington Redskins that morning.
“I had no idea it was coming,” Paul said. “He told me [he was being released] and I was more shocked than anything. He’d seen how shocked I was, and he was like, ‘It’s going to be all right now. You’re going to be fine.’
“It was more so he was comforting me, and he was the one who just got let go.”
The Redskins released the wildly popular Cooley after eight seasons last week, leaving Paul, Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen the only tight ends on the active roster entering Sunday’s opener at New Orleans.
Davis was the Redskins’ leading receiver last year before he was suspended the final four games for failing a drug test, and with Cooley injured and Davis suspended, Paulsen took over as the Redskins’ primary tight end.
Paul, a receiver a year ago, changed positions during the offseason. He often leaned upon Cooley for advice – some of it wanted, some of it not – and said returning to the sidelines after making a play in practice and not being met by Cooley’s criticisms or critiques has been strange.
“I think it was Cooley that kind of took me in and let me do this,” Cooley said. “When I first got to this position, there was kind of a lot of self-doubt, but Cooley just kind of motivated me and let me know that I can really do this and I can really be an NFL tight end.”
The role of mentor has now been bestowed upon Davis, who, according to Paul, has embraced it over the past week.
“If he sees me do something wrong with a play, he’ll immediately come up to me after the play and say, ‘Hey, come off the ball doing this,’ or ‘Do this and that and put your hands here,’” Paul said. “Those are things Cooley used to do in a game, during a game or after a game. Fred, he’ll be watching me as if he was Cooley. Cooley was always watching me and he’d tell me what I had to do, and now Fred is watching me telling me what I need to do or what I can do better.”
Paul also now realizes that without Cooley, he’ll have a greater role in the offense. Prepared or not, he now believes he has to justify the team keeping him on the roster instead of the veteran.
“The confidence that [the coaches] have in me and Logan, it just kind of lets us know,” Paul said. “Me specifically, I’ve just got to make them right. This move and that move that they made with Cooley – I’ve got to make them right now.”