THE ANSWER was brief, but it was delivered in a heartfelt tone, with eye contact toward the questioner.

"I hope not," Riley Cooper said, after he was asked whether he thinks Chip Kelly's image problems started two years ago, when he kept Cooper in the wake of a controversy over a racial epithet captured on video.

Cooper had paused for several minutes to talk to reporters about his former college roommate, Tim Tebow, and other matters, a rare occurrence in this camp - Cooper has avoided cameras and recorders.

After the Kelly issue was raised, he ignored a follow-up question, about whether this was worrisome to him, and walked away. Clearly, this is not a topic Cooper relishes discussing.

But every time the issue of Kelly's relationship with African-American players comes up, so does his handling of the Cooper incident two years ago, the first crisis of Kelly's Eagles tenure.

Cooper, who turns 28 next month, was caught on video at a 2013 Kenny Chesney concert using the N-word in an argument with a security guard. When the video surfaced, Kelly made sure Cooper expressed anguish and contrition. He sent him away for a weekend to reflect, then brought him back to the team, Kelly carefully securing the backing to do so from then-offensive leaders Michael Vick and Jason Avant.

The Eagles gave Cooper a four-year, $22.5 million contract extension the following offseason, while releasing DeSean Jackson. Since that time, three people departing NovaCare have questioned Kelly's handling of, or at least his comfort level around, African-Americans.

Last week, Kelly acknowledged the Cooper fallout could have helped create a negative perception of him, though he also said he can't waste time worrying about that.

It isn't clear that any of Cooper's current African-American teammates perceive him or Kelly negatively.

"I treat people how they treat me," said wideout Jordan Matthews, who came to the team last year, having heard about the incident but never having met Cooper. "When I met Riley, he was a great teammate, a great guy. I love him to death, man. I'm extremely happy he's my teammate."

"Riley's blue-collar," Matthews said. "You tell Riley to stick his head in there, he's going to stick his head in there, he's going to dig out - it doesn't matter if it's a safety or a defensive end. He's going to work his butt off for you in the blocking game and he's going to go up and make the hard catches, too. He's going to do the dirty work that a lot of receivers don't want to do."

Miles Austin joined the wideout corps this offseason. Cooper, 6-4, 230, said he is learning from Austin, a 10th-year vet who has similar skills, at 6-2, 215. Austin said that when he signed, he didn't wonder about what it would be like to be Cooper's teammate.

"He's an awesome guy," Austin said. "We call ourselves the Clydesdales, man - just hitch up to the wagon."

Cooper is now one of the longest-tenured Eagles, as he prepares for his sixth season. He said yesterday he tries to mentor the rookies, whose numbers include first-round draft pick Nelson Agholor.

"I try to be there for them," he said. "Coming in as a rookie, your head's kind of in the clouds. Not just football, but where to live, what to do, the schedule. There's so many things . . . I try to take 'em under my wing and just be like, 'Hey, any questions? There's no dumb questions. I'm here to help.' "

On guard

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said he would like to see a right guard starter emerge "ideally, sooner than later," but, like Chip Kelly, Shurmur indicated preseason games would be crucial to making that decision. Andrew Gardner got yesterday's first-team reps.

Local hero

Undrafted rookie wideout Rasheed Bailey, from Roxborough High and Delaware Valley College, is as local as it gets. He was asked yesterday whether he feels any pressure, with family and friends following his every move in training camp with the hometown team.

"There's no burden. I love Philly. Philly is inside of me," Bailey said. "But they can't help me while I'm in here. It's my job to do what I came to do, every single day. And if I can do this thing right here, I can support them and give back to them and do all those things."

Shurmur said Bailey, 6-1, 205, has made strong strides, adjusting to the NFL from Division III.

"Early in the spring, he didn't know diddly," Shurmur said. "He was out there running around. But you can see, now he makes very few errors . . . He's kind of a thick-bodied, tough guy, so he shows up in those kinds of uncontrolled situations when we're scrimmaging and such, and he catches the ball. I think if you had one attribute [to choose] as a receiver, being able to catch the ball is where you would start."

Birdseed

For the second day in a row and the third time in camp, tight end Zach Ertz landed hard on his right shoulder and was slow to get up. Unlike on Tuesday, this time Ertz sat out the rest of practice. Asked whether he had banged the shoulder again, Ertz said: "Yeah, I'm doing all right," and jogged into the locker room . . . Inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, recovering from Achilles' surgery, had the day off, as did Mychal Kendricks . . . Today will be four days since defensive coordinator Bill Davis assured us ILB Kiko Alonso was "fine," as he recovered from last week's concussion. Davis is scheduled to speak with reporters today; Alonso still hasn't practiced . . . Jordan Matthews was catching passes from the JUGS machine after practice, while lying on his back looking up at the sky. Opportunities to do this in a game might be rare. Matthews said he was attempting to simulate jumping up for a ball, getting used to "unorthodox catches."