After an excused leave of absence, Philadelphia Eagles WR Riley Cooper returned to training camp and practiced with the team. Cooper, who caught TD passes from both Michael Vick and Nick Foles, had this to say about his return: “It feels great to be back, doing what I love to do … I had fun out there on the field today.”
Cooper, who was caught on video yelling out a racial slur at a Kenny Chestnut concert in June, said he talked to each of his teammates individually not for forgiveness, but instead to judge him on his future actions. When he was not talking to his teammates, he stood alone on the sidelines.
Cooper, who is placed as the starting WR opposing DeSean Jackson on the unofficial depth chart, is expected to play against the New England Patriots in the Eagles’ first preseason game on Friday. The Patriots will be practicing with the Eagles until the game at the NovaCare Center. Cooper has said he spent time with his parents in Florida.
Now that Jeremy Maclin is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), Cooper has to step up if the Eagles’ passing game wants to succeed. Although Cooper only has 46 catches in 40 NFL games and was drafted out of the 5th round in the 2010 NFL draft, he has an appealing blend of size (6’3”, 220 lbs) and speed.
Coach Chip Kelly has indicated that while this doesn’t mean he’ll get cut, it’s an issue that’s hard to put away. Cooper has addressed the issue for the first time to the media after practice today. In Kelly’s mind, he was more concerned that Cooper would be able to talk to his teammates and hopefully move on from the incident.
The video that surfaced shows Cooper, clearly under the influence of alcohol, directing the insensitive comment at an African-American security guard, who he seemed to have trouble with. Cooper apologized abundantly when the video became noticed last Wednesday and was also fined an undisclosed amount. While some Eagles teammates forgave Cooper quickly, such as Vick, others, like LeSean McCoy and Cary Williams immediately lost respect.
Last Friday, the Eagles excused from training camp to undergo sensitivity training to keep his emotions in check. Cooper has been the center of threats and blackmail attempts.