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Despite Possibility Of Defeat, Chris Cooley Not Thinking About Final Game

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – Released with a week left in training camp and re-signed in late October, Chris Cooley said Friday he has not at all entertained thoughts of Sunday’s game against Dallas being his last for the Washington Redskins.

Cooley

Cooley, the team’s all-time leader for receptions by a tight end, signed a pro-rated, one-year contract for $825,000 – the minimum for a player with eight years’ service time – when he returned on Oct. 22 after Fred Davis tore his left Achilles’ tendon.

He had his first catch since his return on Sunday, an eight-yard reception in the fourth quarter against the Eagles, and has played only 16.3 percent of offensive snaps as a reserve to both Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul.

The Redskins will host the Cowboys with the NFC East title on the line Sunday night. If the Redskins win, they’ll make the playoffs for the first time in five years in addition to winning the division for the first time since 1999; if they don’t, it’s likely their season will be over.

Cooley did not know whether he would play football again when he was released on Aug. 28; now, with the prospect of knowing he could be playing in his final game for the team, he hasn’t attached any such meaning to the occasion.

“I’m definitely not thinking about this being my last game at FedEx,” Cooley said. “Obviously, I’m not playing as much as I have in the past, but I’m a part of this winning team and in the middle of everything that’s going on, I think at this point, for me, I can’t ask for more than that.”

Cooley was scheduled to make $3.8 million this season, the fifth of a six-year, $30 million contract, and he counted for $6.23 million against the salary cap when he was released before the final preseason game.

Both he and head coach Mike Shanahan crouched the decision as one made to allow Cooley to find an increased role elsewhere; Davis, Paulsen and Paul, a converted receiver, were the top three tight ends on the team as it approached the regular season.

But Shanahan left the possibility of a return open and called Cooley not long after the Redskins returned from their 27-23 road loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 21, asking if he wanted to return. Cooley was at Redskins Park the next morning, took a physical and returned to practice the following Wednesday.

Part of the Redskins’ playoff teams in 2005 and 2007, Cooley said throughout the summer that he felt Washington was on the verge of a special season. He repeated that sentiment through offseason workouts, into training camp and again during a press conference when he was released.

“There was just a different feeling of confidence in this locker room going into this season that I hadn’t felt in a while,” Cooley said. “I think being older, especially for me, it was OK to say there was something special going on around here. Guys say it in the media all the time, and it’s been hard for me to say it the last couple years, but you have to say it in the media. When I was in training camp, I thought, ‘Wow, I can really get my hopes up for this group of guys.’ It was just a feeling that I think everyone here had.”

Cooley, 30, has made it clear he does not have interest in playing for another team, though he did work out for at least one unspecified team during his time away from the Redskins earlier this year.

An ability to secure a role as a starter was virtually impossible during the early portion of the season, but a full offseason should at least allow a market for Cooley to develop should the Redskins show no interest in bringing him back.

“I think the thing that makes it special for me is that in every way, I’m a fan of this team and this organization,” Cooley said. “It’d be maybe not as quite exciting if I wasn’t playing, but I’d still care as much about this team if I was at home watching them play.

“This organization has been such a part of my life, and will be for the rest of my life, that I really care about this team. I think what’s special for me is that I really get to be a part of exactly what’s going on.”

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