Eagles forgiving of Cooper

Posted: August 02, 2013

EAGLES LINEBACKER DeMeco Ryans said he woke up from a nap and saw several teammates gathered around a TV yesterday afternoon after practice.

Ryans was curious. What was up?

Eagles wideout Riley Cooper was up, on video. Wearing a plaid sleeveless shirt, a la "Larry the Cable guy," vowing to jump a fence and "fight every [N-word] here" at Lincoln Financial Field during a June 8 Kenny Chesney concert.

Say what?

"It was surprising to see exactly what the news was, when I was able to see it for myself," Ryans said.

Nonetheless, after Cooper delivered an emotional apology to the team at the evening walkthrough, and quarterback Michael Vick spoke to his teammates about the need for forgiveness and unity, Ryans and other African-American Eagles interviewed last night said they were ready to move on.

"I accepted his apology. It's very unfortunate that it happened, of course we all make mistakes and say things that we shouldn't say, that people are not going to hear and see," Ryans said. "In this day and age . . . everybody with a videophone, you have to watch what you're doing."

To an African-American teammate, one might think the fact that Cooper used the epithet might matter more than the fact that he got caught. Does Ryans think Cooper is a racist?

"No," Ryans said. "It's an unfortunate thing that happened, but Riley's our teammate. We've all hung out together, know the guy Riley is."

Vick said he spoke privately with Cooper for about 15 minutes during the walkthrough. No one in the Eagles' locker room - maybe no one on earth - understands better than Vick what it's like to try to explain the unexplainable, what it's like when you're pinned in the spotlight for doing something absolutely no one defends or understands.

"We all make mistakes in life. We all do and say things that maybe we do mean or don't mean. But as a teammate, I forgave him. As a team, we forgave him," Vick said. "We understand the magnitude of the situation, we understand that a lot of people may be hurt. But I know Riley Cooper. I know him as a man. I've been with him for the last 3 years, and I know what type of person he is . . . Hard to understand the situation, but easy to forgive him."

Asked about players on other teams seeking retribution, Vick said: "What if your son or daughter made a mistake of this fashion, how would you want people to proceed? I've been there before. It's a very delicate situation that we all understand. Somehow we've all got to find a way to get past it."

But what about that word, and the shock of hearing it from a teammate?

"Him being my brother and knowing him for so long, it's hard to imagine him saying that, but at the same time, it happened and we talked about it, man-to-man, one-on-one, and we just know that we've gotta somehow, some way, move on," Vick said That seemed to be Vick's thrust - worried about how this might affect the team, looking to minimize the fallout.

"I've done heard that word so many times, whether good, bad or indifferent. I try not to even think about what the meaning behind it is, or why would he'd even be saying it," Vick said.

Wideout Jason Avant called Cooper a good friend, said he knows Cooper is not a racist.

"A lot of guys forgave him right away," Avant said. "There's going to be guys that it's going to take a couple days or a week or a month. It's going to be something he has to deal with spiritually, between him and God . . . I don't think that is a reflection of who Riley is. I think that was an isolated incident, maybe he was inebriated . . . when I'm around him every day, he's not that way."

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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