For Chris Cooley, Return To Redskins A New Opportunity, Not A Farewell Tour
(Originally posted 10/22/12, 2:48 p.m.; Updated 10/22/12, 8:02 p.m.)
ASHBURN – Chris Cooley was at peace with himself.
Once the face of the Washington Redskins, Cooley had begun to adjust to life without football. He had begun hosting a Redskins-related segment on a local television station each week, and, for the first time in roughly 15 years, he actually had his fall Sundays off.
“I wasn’t at home doing squats and power cleans and listening to ‘Rocky’ music,” Cooley said. “Getting in a workout wasn’t a huge deal for me. I’d go run sprints in the yard or go jog, but yeah, that wasn’t a big concern for me.”
But Monday, Cooley found himself back at work. With Fred Davis done for the year after tearing an Achilles’ tendon, the Redskins signed the popular tight end to a new contract, honoring a promise they made in August to the franchise’s career leader in receptions by a tight end when he was released in the final week of the preseason.
“I was disappointed for Fred and the way that that happened – the type of year that he was having and the player he is,” Cooley said. “I think it’s not opportune for him, but at the same time, I am very excited to be a part of this team. It’s been unreal watching them come together as an offense and not be there, and so it’s a good opportunity for me to come in and I think it will be a lot of fun for me.”
Cooley, drafted by the Redskins in the third round in 2004, spent all eight seasons with the team, developing into a reliable receiver and a strong blocker. He had 428 catches for 4,703 yards and 33 touchdowns, but was released by the team on Aug. 28 after being stuck behind Davis, Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul on the depth chart.
Though he fielded calls from other teams – New England was one who reached out, according to reports earlier this month – he was unwilling to be just another player on another team. A self-professed historian of the Redskins, Cooley, 30, eventually decided that at this stage in his life, there was only one team he wanted to play for.
“I feel very fortunate that I didn’t go play somewhere else because this is the opportunity that I wanted, and I’d be kicking myself if I was in another city right now and this came up,” he said.
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said a call was placed to Cooley not long after the team’s plane landed following the 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, in which Davis was hurt.
His exact role has yet to be decided at this point, but Cooley is hoping he’ll be active, and able to play, in the Redskins’ next game Sunday at Pittsburgh.
“I trust Chris,” Shanahan said. “When he said he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go. We’re going to expect him to come in and contribute.”
He’ll have to. Davis, through seven weeks, has been the Redskins’ leading receiver, catching 24 passes for 325 yards despite being held without a touchdown. He was efficient at churning out yards after the catch and was effective in making 10- to 15-yard gains running seam routes for quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Paulsen, who stepped in for Davis and played 60 of Washington’s 70 offensive snaps on Sunday, had a team-high 76 yards on four receptions. Paul, a converted receiver, is still in the transition phase after being converted from receiver during the offseason.
“I thought Logan played well and Niles played well,” Shanahan said. “We’ll have Chris come in, knowing the system, and expecting him to play at the level he’s played at in the past. Now guys will get more of an opportunity to show what they can do.”
Cooley was hampered by inflammation in his left knee early last season, which led to the team’s decision to place him on injured reserve after just five games. In fact, his season has ended early because of injury in two of the last three years.
Cooley, though, doesn’t want to view the final nine games of this season as a farewell tour. Rather, he’s focused on trying to prove that he can still be an effective player.
“I figured it was inevitable they would call,” Cooley said. “It was fortunate for both of us, I think – fortunate for me that I get a chance to play where I want to play and fortunate for them that I sat here and waited. So, it worked out.”