Riley Cooper returns to practice with Eagles

Riley Cooper, practicing Tuesday, called his days away after yelling a racial slura "tough, tough ride."
Riley Cooper, practicing Tuesday, called his days away after yelling a racial slura "tough, tough ride." (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: August 08, 2013

Wide receiver Riley Cooper returned to the Eagles on Tuesday, four days after he took an excused absence to seek counseling following a video that surfaced online last week showing Cooper yelling a racial slur.

Cooper visited his family's home in Florida during his absence, which began Friday and included only three missed practices. He spoke to Eagles coach Chip Kelly on Monday night and told Kelly he was ready to return. The two met Tuesday morning. By the time Cooper practiced in the afternoon, he said, he had met with every teammate.

"I told them, 'I don't want you to forgive me because that puts the burden on you,' " Cooper said. "I want it all on me. I told them that, and I told them I apologize. They could tell it's from the heart. They know I'm not that type of person."

Cooper said the counseling consisted of talking about the situation and the gravity of his words. He discussed how many people he hurt, including families and children. Alcohol was not discussed in the meetings. He called the few days he was gone a "tough, tough ride."

He was fined by the team after the video went public.

Kelly reiterated that Cooper was on an excused absence - not a suspension - and that the 25-year-old receiver did not need to prove anything before he could return. Once Cooper decided that he was ready, Kelly welcomed him back. The coach met with him first on Tuesday morning.

"We allowed him to be excused because we felt like and he felt like he needed to go see somebody," Kelly said. "I spoke to someone that he met with, and we talked about it: What is in the best interest? But there wasn't [a need for] verification before we bring you back."

Kelly said the team would not brush aside the issue, assuring that there would be continued communication.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made clear that Cooper's comment was "totally unacceptable," even though the team welcomed the receiver back.

"His words may have been directed at one person, but they hurt everyone," Lurie said. "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."

The players who spoke publicly Tuesday supported Cooper's return. They insisted there was no division in the locker room, and Kelly said the coaches would continue to monitor the situation.

"Out of this situation, Riley truly felt like an outcast," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "As a team, we have to bring him back in as our teammate, as our brother, and resolve this issue and move forward. We can't have any ill feelings lingering throughout this season."

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, one of the team's star players, said he had "no reaction" to Cooper's return. When asked if he was fine interacting with Cooper, Jackson said, "He's my teammate. We work together." He said he is still friends with Cooper.

Wide receiver Jason Avant acknowledged that everyone forgives on his own schedule, but he said the team would not keep holding the incident against Cooper.

Cooper said it's "going to be tough" knowing that this will be attached to his name for the rest of his life.

"It's brutal, but that's reality," Cooper said. "It's going to be with me every day and I'm going to think about it every day. I know I will. When I had to talk to the team the day everything came out, it was extremely emotional. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, talk to my boys and talk to my teammates and tell them what I did and how I let them down."

Cooper is expected to be a starter this season. He caught two touchdown passes Tuesday and had his finest practice of the summer.

"To be honest with you, it felt great," Cooper said. "It felt good to be out there with the guys, catching and running, 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."

Cooper is expected to play in Friday's preseason opener against the New England Patriots at Lincoln Financial Field. That will be his first time in front of a big crowd, with live hitting from an opponent. The first step back came Tuesday when he returned to the locker room, where he is trying to earn respect after an incident that made him the story of Eagles training camp.

"Don't judge me for the past, more so the future," Cooper said. "Just watch my daily moves and what I'm doing."

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