Cooper has been temporarily separated from the team to seek counseling. Following his departure to a destination unknown, Chip Kelly held another team meeting that he deemed “very productive.” Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, DeMeco Ryans and Jon Dorenbos were among the veterans to speak up.
“We have big things that we want to accomplish this year, and we don’t want that to be a burden on our season — that’s what our coach said about this locker room,” said DeSean Jackson after practice. “As far as the leaders speaking up in meetings, people want to see us stay together and not let this break our team apart.”
Are you willing to still play with Riley?
“It’s my job, brother,” Jackson responded. “I’m here. Gotta work.”
That might best describe the mood of the team right now. There are players on this team that aren’t close to being OK with Cooper as a person. At the same time, no one internally is publicly calling for his dismissal from the team. There is a collective effort to focus on the business side.
“There’s never been any question of cutting Riley,” said Kelly. “It was really important I thought for Riley to be with us yesterday. I didn’t just want him sitting at home. So he was with the team, and then finally when we got the plans in place [for the counseling]. I met with him again this morning. He’ll be gone — I don’t have an exact timetable, that will get figured out — but his status with us is not in question.
“No one has expressed to us that they can’t play with him.”
How Cooper’s presence will affect team chemistry is still very much an issue, though. It is possible that he will no longer fit into the puzzle.
Today was the first with him removed from the equation. Michael Vick was asked if having Cooper being excused from team activities is a good thing.
“I think so,” said Vick. “Whoever made that decision made it I would think collectively with Riley, so I think it’s a good thing to Coop to get away for a minute and kind of reflect.”
Is there a realistic scenario where Cooper is welcomed back into the locker room?
“Absolutely,”Vick responded. “We’ve already begun to put the plan in place to help him come back full form and become one of the guys again.”
“As a team we have to get past it. We have a season to deal with,” offered Cary Williams. “Obviously to me this issue supersedes the season. I think there is an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. It’s an unfortunate situation for the team right now, to go through this during the dog days of camp.”
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