Eagles excuse WR Riley Cooper from team activities as he seeks counseling
The Philadelphia Eagles have excused wide receiver Riley Cooper from team activities as he continues to seek counseling after video surfaced of him using racial slurs.
Riley Cooper took an indefinite, excused absence from the Eagles on Friday and will not participate in practice, meetings, or be at the team's training facility until he receives counseling.
The announcement came two days after an online video showed Cooper screaming a racial slur at a concert in June. In a statement, Cooper said he needed time to "reflect" on the situation, which could further fester into a divisive issue within the team's locker room.
"The best thing for me, and for the team, is to step away for a period of time," Cooper said.
The team has no timetable for Cooper's return, and Cooper said he'll leave for "as long as it takes . . . to try to make this thing right."
Eagles coach Chip Kelly said the team had planned for Cooper to receive counseling after initially meeting with Cooper on Wednesday and that it took 24-36 hours to make a plan. In explaining why the absence did not begin sooner, Kelly also said the team wanted Cooper at the NovaCare Complex with his teammates on Thursday because they did not want him to be alone.
"We still care about Riley," Kelly said. "He was wrong in what he did, but that doesn't mean we're just going to kick him to the street."
Kelly also was adamant that Cooper will return to the team, and that his place on the roster is not in doubt. Releasing Cooper from the team because of this incident did not appear to be a consideration.
"There's never been any question of cutting Riley," Kelly said.
The Eagles held another team meeting on Friday morning as the beginning of what Kelly termed a "healing process." Among the players who spoke were veterans Jason Avant, Jon Dorenbos, DeMeco Ryans, and Jeremy Maclin.
Kelly called the meeting "very productive." Yet emotions remained raw with players on the Eagles, and the meeting was not satisfactory for everybody on the roster. Cornerback Cary Williams noted that the players who spoke offered positive words about Cooper, 25, and there must be a forum for those angry with Cooper to address the now-notorious receiver.
"That's why I think there's still an elephant in the room," Williams said. "It's great to have a conversation about it, but you got to have the guys that have an issue come out and say something about the situation. And I would rather the offender to be present so everybody could have an understanding of where individuals are coming from."
Kelly said that no player has said he would not play with Cooper, although Kelly understood that the anger publicly expressed by players is a "natural reaction."
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson did not want to speak out about Cooper because he said it's his "personal opinion." Jackson just hoped the issue will not damage the team's 2013 campaign. The Eagles open the preseason on Aug. 9 at home against the New England Patriots and start the regular season Sept. 9 in Washington.
"We don't want this to be a burden on our season," Jackson said. "Whatever he has to do as a man, that's something he has to handle and deal with it."
Williams believes this issue "supersedes the season" and that it must still be addressed. Quarterback Michael Vick, one of the leaders of the team, said there's a plan in place to welcome Cooper back to become "one of the guys."
When that will happen remains to be seen. The team said "this is all new territory" and that the timetable will be evaluated with each step.
Now, even though the distraction remains, the Eagles can at least go on with football.
"This isn't a football deal," Kelly said. "It's a life deal."