Cooper wants Eagles to judge him by future
Wide receiver Riley Cooper, who had been excused from team activities after using a racial slur at a concert in June, was back with the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday and will practice with the team.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, who returned to practice on Tuesday after a brief stint away from the team, said that he's spoken with each of his teammates individually since a video capturing him using a derogatory racial remark went viral, asking them not to forgive him for his actions, but to judge him by his future.
"I talked to everyone individually," he said following the team's joint practice with the New England Patriots. "I told them, 'I don't want you to forgive me, because that puts the burden on you. I want it all on me.' I told them that and I told them I apologize. They could tell it was from the heart, they know I'm not that kind of person. It feels good to have support from the guys."
He added that he felt that 100 percent of his teammates were in support of him, something he sensed on the field in his return.
"It felt good to be out there with the guys and catching and running and 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 said. "It just felt good to be back out here with the guys."
The Eagles had excused Cooper on Friday and sent him for sensitivity training after video of his remark, made at a Kenny Chesney concert in June, surfaced last week.
His goal now is to earn the respect back from his teammates that he may have lost since the video surfaced. Running back LeSean McCoy recently said that he had lost respect for Cooper after the remarks.
"Absolutely, just by my actions," Cooper said of gaining respect back. "Don't judge me for the past, more so the future and just watch my daily moves and what I'm doing."
Fellow wide receiver Avant, among the team leaders spotlighted by coach Chip Kelly, said that the Eagles are over the situation as a team.
"I think you guys [the media] need the healing process more than the team," Avant said. "You guys got to cover it, so you keeping going, making the story go, but as far as our team, I think guys are definitely over it and we talked, we've had dialogue, we've accepted his apology. The only thing he can do is apologize. What else can he do? When a situation happens like that, there's not too many things you can do but apologize and be sincere about it. Now you guys have to get over it."
Asked whether or not a situation could arise where the team would part ways with Cooper due to the fallout from the situation, Kelly squashed the notion.
"I don't see that happening," he said. "After talking to our players, I think our players really understand the situation ... I don't envision that happening."
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement Tuesday that Cooper's slur was "totally unacceptable" but that the receiver was working to regain trust with the team and community. Cooper was fined by the Eagles after his slur became known last week.
"His words may have been directed at one person but they hurt everyone. 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," Lurie said in the statement.
Cooper, a fifth-round pick of the team in 2010, remains hopeful that he has a future on the field in Philadelphia.
"I sure do hope, and I'm going to try each and every day to prove that and play as hard as I can and play my game," he said. "I want to stay here."
Regardless of his future with the Eagles, Cooper also understands that this is an incident that he's going to have to live with for the rest of his life.
"It's going to be tough, no doubt about it," he said. "I'm going to live with this every day for the rest of my life. It's one of those things, you can't let it affect your play on the field, and that's what I'm going to strive to do."
Kelly said that the decision for Cooper to return was a mutual one, while Cooper noted that he'll continue to seek guidance on the issue as needed going forward.
"I talked to Chip last night and this morning, and he asked, he said, 'How do you feel? Are you ready to come back?' and I said absolutely," Cooper said. "I love being out here on the field and I love being out there with my guys."
The training, Cooper said, helped him understand the severity of his remarks.
"We just talked about the situation and how big this is," he said of the training. "I realize that, and I realize how many people I've hurt, how many families I've hurt, how many young kids I've hurt, and that's what we talked about, the severity of it. I realize that and I take full responsibility for it."
While Cooper said that all of the players on the field were "great" toward him on Tuesday, he understands that he'll likely continue to hear about this situation from opponents and other players in the future.
"I know people are going to say stuff, but people have always said stuff," he said. "You have to be the bigger man and have to have thick skin, especially in this situation."
The Eagles may have to lean on Cooper more on the field in light on Tuesday's injury to Arrelious Benn.
Benn, acquired by the Eagles in a trade with Tampa Bay, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during practice. The team also released wide receiver Dave Ball.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was used in this report.
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