Riley Cooper made his way through the gathered media and onto the field at about 12:20 Tuesday afternoon. He first spent a couple moments with receivers coach Bob Bicknell, then walked over have a conversation with a team employee. Jason Avant was the first player to greet him. He came up to Cooper and affectionately grabbed him before giving him a hug.
That was the icebreaker. Moments later the whistle sounded and business resumed.
“It felt good. It felt great,” said the receiver following practice. “I love being out there on the field playing football, that’s what I do and that’s what I love. It felt good to be out there with the guys catching and running and making some plays, and them coming up to you, supporting you, high-fiving you, chest-bumping you like Jason Avant did in the end zone when I had that TD. It just felt good to be back out here with all the guys.”
Word came down earlier Tuesday that Cooper would return following a four-day absence to receive counseling, this after video of his racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert went viral and sent a shock through the Eagles’ locker room. Chip Kelly spoke both to Cooper and a person associated with his counseling, and felt comfortable with where the wideout was mentally. Cooper indicated that he was ready to re-join his teammates.
The 25-year-old said that after meeting one-on-one with some of his teammates this morning, he has now spoken to each of them face-to-face about his actions.
“I talked to everyone individually. I told them, ‘I don’t want you to forgive me because that puts the burden on you. I want it all on me.’ I told them that and I told them I apologize, and they could tell it’s from the heart,” he said. “They know I’m not that type of person. It feels good to have support from the guys.”
Did you get 100 percent support?
“I went in and I talked to everybody and everyone seemed to support [me].”
Certainly not all of his teammates backed him originally. On Tuesday most expressed acceptance.
“We’ve got a good pulse of where we are right now. Our players have been fantastic with us in terms of feedback,” said Chip Kelly. “This isn’t something we just put in the back seat and then keep moving forward. We’ll make sure we keep our eyes and ears open and continue to monitor the situation.”
Kelly suggested that Cooper will play Friday against the Patriots assuming he’s healthy and practices the rest of the week.
Is the head coach entertaining the idea on moving forward without Cooper if he doesn’t fit back into the locker room?
“I don’t see that happening after talking to our players. I think our players really understand the situation and are working with him to make sure they get a better understanding of the whole situation, but I don’t envision that happening, no,” said Kelly.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie issued the following statement following practice Tuesday:
“I want to make this clear; the words Riley Cooper used were totally unacceptable. His words may have been directed at one person but they hurt everyone. Riley has apologized to the team and community and has made a personal commitment to work hard to try and gain their trust and earn his position on the team.”
Cooper was asked if he feels like he is here to stay.
“I sure do hope so,” he replied. “And I’m going to try each and every day to prove that and just play as hard as I can, play my game, and I want to stay here.”