Riley Cooper: ‘I’m Proud Of Myself’

NFL: NFC Wildcard Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles

The backdrop behind Riley Cooper had changed from where he stood on July 31.

On that day, he was outside the NovaCare Complex with a brick wall behind him and microphones shoved aggressively in his face. His future with the franchise that drafted him seemed very much in question. Hours before he spoke, a video had surfaced of Cooper using a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert. Now it was time to face the music and answer question after question about the incident, his status with the team, his relationship with his peers and more.

Thursday afternoon, however, carried a different feel. Some seven months later, Cooper stood in the hallway at the NovaCare Complex in a grey hoodie, black shorts and black sneakers. The reporters were now asking about his career year in 2013 and his promising future in Chip Kelly’s offense.

Cooper, 26, had just signed a five-year, $25 million deal with $10 million in guaranteed money. Even before the ugly incident last summer, he was unproven as an NFL-caliber wide receiver. Cooper had done very little in his first three seasons. But after a breakout campaign in 2013, he was able to cash in and now figures to have a somewhat prominent role in one of the league’s most explosive offenses.

“It was tough, everyone knows that,” Cooper said. “I dealt with a lot of adversity, but I don’t think… since I was little it’s a dream to play in the NFL. But does anyone ever dream of getting a multi-million dollar contract and getting paid as a starter? That’s something that I don’t know if I ever thought about. But it’s upon me now and it’s here and I’m extremely fortunate.

“I have a lot of people to thank for that. My parents for always being there and supporting me and stuff, and my agent Joel Segal for helping me through this whole process. So it’s cool man. It’s a cool feeling. And I’m proud of myself.”

From Cooper’s perspective, re-signing with the Eagles was a no-brainer. For starters, he doesn’t have to go to a new city and answer questions about his character and what happened last summer. From a football perspective, he’s found a coach in Kelly who values his skill set: tracking down deep balls and blocking on the perimeter in the run game.

Even if the Eagles bring Jeremy Maclin back or draft a wide receiver early, Cooper figures to see the field plenty.

“When Jeremy went down, you don’t want to see it, but I finally got to go in and contribute and just play football, do nothing different than I’ve been doing the last few years,” Cooper said. “This game’s just all about opportunity, and I went out there and just played football how it was supposed to be played, just played hard every single down, whether it’s blocking or catching, just doing everything you can to win as a team.”

The “opportunity” argument isn’t exactly on-point. In 2012, Cooper played more than 70 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in the Eagles’ final seven games (Nick Foles started six of them) and averaged just 29.4 receiving yards per contest.

In 2013, though, teams played a lot of man coverage with one deep safety against the Eagles’ potent running attack. With DeSean Jackson on the other side, Cooper saw plenty of single coverage and made the most of his opportunities, averaging 17.8 yards per catch, good for third-best in the NFL.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” he said. “I wanted to be here. I love the system. I feel like I fit it.”

As for the way Cooper’s teammates perceive him, it would be a mistake to think they’re lining up to be his best friend just because he caught eight touchdowns. There very well could be guys who don’t care for him in the locker room, but they showed in 2013 that they could be professional and focus on putting a quality product on the field.

“I do feel like he’s accepted by everyone in the locker room,” said Jason Kelce. “Obviously, I can’t speak for everybody. But I think the biggest point is that it was obviously a terrible situation, but Riley right away came forward, said he was wrong, made a mistake, and I think guys were able just through time and through being with him and understanding who he actually is that it kind of diffused and got out of the headlines. So at this point it’s really a non-factor. It’s not brought up anymore. And it really doesn’t need to be.”

Cooper clearly hopes the incident is behind him and that he doesn’t have to answer questions about it going forward. Asked about the possibility of the league legislating use of the “N-word” during games, he said simply: “I think it’s a good rule.”

To say this is a story of redemption would be over-dramatizing it. Only Cooper knows for sure how last summer affected him and whether it actually promoted any positive change in his off-the-field behavior.

But it’s clear that he appreciates the support he got from the organization when things looked dire.

“I love Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie, Chip and Howie [Roseman],” Cooper said. “They believe in me, which means a lot. It really does.”

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  • oreofestar

    Dang my head has been spinning the last couple hours seeing how the new deals affect the cap the next 2 years

    • cliff henny

      no worries, all extremely friendly contracts. heck, Maclin is arguing over how friendly he wants his contract to be-never seen anything like it. these 3 have zero impact on resigning ’12 or ’13 draft and if byrd or ward make it to FA, Eagles can still be players.

      • Richard Colton

        If Cliff says the deal is cap friendly…take it to the bank.

      • Dr. Rick

        I have concluded that there is a direct connection between cliffsnonuseofpuncuation and his Mad Skills as a cap wizard. 8^)
        Go Cliff, go! You rule.
        Hey, I see Chris Clemons, Seattle DE, is coming up available. Can we use him?
        Best to the group.

        • cliff henny

          haha…worst part is i half try with puncuation-grammar, not so much, long as you understand, i’m happy. i’m so left brained, a picasso and stick art look the same to me. my sister jokes i like football so much because there’s numbers on the field.


    He will be a beast next year..can’t wait!! He plays how eagles football should be played. Proud of the way guys like him and Celek played the game this year


    Caplin just confirmed we are releasing avant

    • cliff henny

      wish he had 1 last yr left in him as an Eagle, though this was a no brainer, and he could Shepard 2 promising rookies from draft.

      • oreofestar

        in a perfect world he would just cut his salary in half

        • Dr Rick

          These off season, pre draft deals are tough Seahawks fans are going to be unpleasantly surprised as well, at how many stalwarts are gone. I would like to see the cap slide up to keep players, or to see them cap their salaries to stay with the team. Old school that way, I guess.

    • Dr Rick

      Not surprised but as others have commented, he is a class act. I’m not sure why he didn’t shine here but hope he goes to another division and kicks butt.
      Thank you, Jason, for your service!

      • rose maryawn

        my Aunty Julia got silver Volkswagen Beetle
        Convertible by working parttime off of a home computer… Look At This

      • MediaMike

        Yeah, I’d love to see him go have a few more solid seasons in New England, Denver, KC, San Diego, or wherever.
        I really will only wish ill upon him if he plays in NFC East, San Fran, and/or Carolina.

    • daggolden

      Avant eventually moves into the NFL front office or the union in some kind of player development role. He is well respected kinda like Troy Vincent was and I can see him working with young players down the road.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        My thoughts exactly & you even had the same former player in mind. Class act that deserves a parting gift in the way of an offer to stay in that kind of player development/mentor role. I believe Troy started in the Eagles FO after retiring, then went to work for the position he’s in now.

  • cliff henny

    well, Mac can sign a 1 yrs $5 contract, and you’re not the starter. Dont kid yourself, it’s a backup 4th WRs money (using slot as 3rd), just fortunate that the 3rd and 5th will be working for rookies wages. i’m 100% behind it

  • Rick H

    I believe Cooper learned a valuable life lesson and it was a very difficult one. Time always tells but right now only he knows what is going on in his head & heart.
    As for Jason Avant he is an amazing guy coming from the streets of Chicago and making his way out of that life. If you ever read his life story it is very inspirational! If he is no longer an Eagle I expect Andy to look at him.
    If he doesn’t get another chance he did have 8 years in the NFL which is incredibly special. I do think he will catch on with another team though

    • Jerry Pomroy

      I still think there is a spot to keep him on the roster, just at a reduced price. I’d rather keep him than Maehl or Johnson. If the guy is gonna sit anyway, I’d rather it be someone who can offer something despite not playing on the field.

      If they let Avant walk, the classy thing to do would be to offer him an internal position amongst the organization. Maybe in a functional mentor role where he has a lot of exposure to the locker room and to the young rooks coming in each year. NOT like a ra-ra guy, but more like a full functioning developmental counselor. If he turned it down to test the waters, leave the door open for an eventual future return.

  • anon

    Two sources tell the Buffalo News that long-term talks between the Bills
    and free agent FS Jairus Byrd have been “pleasant so far.”

    • MediaMike

      I’d be in a pleasant mood as well if I knew I was getting 120% of my salary last year or 6 years / $60 million from the Skins.

    • GEAGLE

      Screw you for posting this early in the morning…messengers get shot before my morning coffee!! Lol my bad, you posted it last night

  • Dr Rick

    Next up, James Casey.

    I vote we keep him at the “right” price.

    He is a great blocker, with good routes and good hands, who did not have the throws this year but gives us the TE depth. And bonus, lots of upside left.
    He should fit in well with our potentially improved WR picture. Should open up the TE side of things well. He was the loyal soldier this year and I vote that he can be That Guy for the TEs the same way Riley Cooper was for the WRs.
    We need a core of soldiers. Casey fits.

    What say ye?

    B I R D Z

    • MediaMike

      You don’t visit Casey with the financial OJ knife until after the draft. If you approach him for a pay cut and he says no, you have to cut him. Is there a TE that represents an upgrade over Casey who will also be cheaper? If you take a TE at some point in the draft, you can cut Casey if that kid looks like he’ll make the 53. The money saved from Casey can go into the impending Cox / Foles / Boykin / Kendricks deals that will need to get done at this time next year.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        Get your point but kinda hope that some of those deals get wrapped up prior to this season’s end, particularly Foles. I’d rather not go into the off-season with so many deals that’ll need work & I’m hoping that we can get Foles for the less absurd money that QBs are getting these days and strapping their teams.

        • Joe from Easton

          Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but the Eagles can’t restructure Foles until after the 2014 league year is over.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            You could very well be correct. I’m not a rules guy. Would it have something to do with him being on his rookie deal?

          • Joe from Easton

            Yes, I believe rookie’s have to complete three years of their first deal before they can renegotiate per the new CBA.

  • Vet Linc

    Geagle could be one of the biggest internet dorks on the World Wide Web.

    Avant’s a good dude but his absence will be negligible.

  • ICDogg

    Surprised I haven’t seen a flame-baiting post complaining about how the Eagles only re-sign white guys. Trolls are off their game!

    • anon

      Peters is black sooo….

      • ICDogg

        Yeah, but that would only make it funnier

    • theedevilsadvocate

      haaaaaaaa i think thats more of a allworld2, zeru type thing…

  • daggolden

    Final step for the Eagles is now to take a Benjamin , Adams or one of the stud receivers at #22. Then your offense is set for the next 4-5 years. You would then be able to get out of the Cooper contract in 2 years if it doesn’t pan out, maybe move DJax in 2 years if need be. But until then your offense would have the oline, Foles, Djax, Cooper, Benjamin, Ertz with Shady out of the backfield. Then all my resources in the final 6 rounds and FA this year and next go to my defense. Just make the defense a little better this year then the following year it all comes together. SB in 2015.