Eagles excuse Cooper from team activities
Riley Cooper has left the Philadelphia Eagles to undergo counseling after he used a racial slur, the team announced Friday.
"As we have said, Riley Cooper will be seeking counseling and we have excused him from all team activities," the team said in a statement. "This is all new territory and we are going to evaluate this timetable every step of the way. He will meet with professionals provided by the Eagles during this period of time to better help him understand how his words have hurt so many, including his teammates."
Cooper, who previously issued an apology, also made a statement that was released by the team.
"The last few days have been incredibly difficult for me," Cooper said. "My actions were inexcusable. The more I think about what I did, the more disgusted I get. I keep trying to figure out how I could have said something so repulsive, and what I can do to make things better.
"Right now, I think it's important for me to take some time to reflect on this situation. The organization and my teammates have been extremely supportive, but I also realize that there are people who will have a tough time forgiving me for what I've done. The best thing for me, and for the team, is to step away for a period of time."
The Eagles fined Cooper an undisclosed amount for his use of the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert in June. The receiver said Wednesday the fine was substantial.
Although Cooper was drinking alcohol when he used the slur, he is not being treated for alcohol use, league sources told ESPN's Ed Werder. In addition, Cooper is expecting to eventually return to the Eagles, who are paying him during his absence and have dedicated a roster spot to him.
"There's never been any question of cutting Riley," coach Chip Kelly said Friday. "We talked on Day 1 when we met with Riley, [owner] Jeffrey [Lurie] and myself, Riley was in full agreement that he needed to get some assistance in this situation. It took us about 24 to 36 hours to kind of put a plan in place. It was really important, I thought, for Riley to be with us yesterday.
"We just didn't want him sitting at home so, he was here with the team, and when we finally got plans in place, I met with him again this morning. He'll be gone. I don't have an exact timetable. That will get figured out, but his status with us is not in question."
The mayor of Philadelphia, Michael A. Nutter, released a statement to ESPN in which he was highly critical of Cooper and Eagles management, saying in part, "As the Mayor of this City and an African-American man, I find the remarks made by Riley Cooper repugnant, insensitive and ignorant, and all of us, regardless of race or nationality, should be offended by these comments.
"In a year when we celebrated the great achievements of Jackie Robinson in the movie "42", it is truly saddening that racial epithets are still being hurled like baseballs, or by a football player, at the human dignity of African-Americans and others. This incident is a disgrace, and cannot be excused by just paying a fine, as if it were a parking ticket."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday on ESPN Radio that no further discipline would be coming from the league, as the collective bargaining agreement doesn't permit dual punishment by the league and a team for the same incident.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said while he forgives Cooper for his comments, he's lost respect for the wide receiver.
"I forgive him. We've been friends for a long time," the running back said Thursday. "But in a situation like this, you really find out about someone. Just on a friendship level, I can't really respect someone like that."
McCoy said his relationship with Cooper no longer will extend beyond the football field and there's nothing Cooper can do to change that.
"Ain't nothing to prove. He said how he felt," McCoy said, according to CSNPhilly.com. "He's still a teammate. I'm still going to block for him. I'm still gonna show great effort. Just on a friendship level, and as a person, I can't really respect somebody like that. I think as a team, we need to move past it. There are some things that are going to be hard to work with, to be honest."
Cooper, who grew up in Clearwater, Fla., was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 draft by the Eagles out of the University of Florida. He has just 46 catches and five touchdowns in three years with the Eagles, but has been practicing with the starters since Jeremy Maclin's season-ending injury last week.
New England's Tim Tebow, a former teammate of Cooper's at Florida, said he hadn't seen "everything that's happening."
"I've been pretty busy," he continued. "I'm going to wait to comment until I hear what all happened."
Information from ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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