Riley Cooper jumped up, hauled in a touchdown pass and enjoyed a chest bump from teammate Jason Avant. On a normal day, the play would have been similar to a tree falling in the woods with nobody around. On Cooper’s first day back at Eagles training camp, it was worthy of a snapshot.
“It felt good to be out there with the guys,” Cooper said. “Catching and running, and making some plays and them coming up to you, supporting you, high-fiving, chest-bumping you … it just felt good to be back out there with the guys.”
Cooper returned to practice Tuesday, five days after leaving camp to undergo sensitivity training following his public use of a racial slur. The lanky receiver was one of the best players on the field for Chip Kelly’s squad, which participated in a joint practice with New England.
Cooper caught touchdowns from both Mike Vick and Nick Foles. He looked especially impressive in 11-on-11 drills. Afterward, Cooper once again lamented his actions, saying he pulled each teammate aside individually and apologized.
“I told them I don’t want you to forgive me because that puts the burden on you … I want it all on me,” Cooper said, “and I told them that, and I told them I apologize, and they could tell it was from the heart and they know I’m not that type of person, and it feels good to have support from the guys.”
Coach Chip Kelly said he hasn’t noticed any kind of rift in the locker room, and he doesn’t expect one. His teammates, all of them, appeared to accept Cooper back.
“I don’t see that happening after talking to our players,” Kelly said. “I think our players really understand the situation and are working with him to make sure they get a better understanding about the whole situation.”
Neither Kelly, nor Cooper would say exactly what type of counseling Cooper underwent during his absence — although the receiver dismissed the notion it had to do with abstaining from alcohol. From listening to Cooper speak, it sounded like he went home to hang out with his parents and reflect on his mistake.
“They’re extremely, extremely disappointed in me and that’s one of the hardest parts with this whole thing,” Cooper said, of his parents. “That’s not how I was raised. I was raised great. They’re having a tough time dealing with this, and that’s tough for me to cope with.”
On Monday night, Kelly called Cooper and the two decided it was okay for him to return to the team.
“Riley wasn’t suspended, so it wasn’t like I needed verification to come back,” Kelly said. “We allowed him to be excused because we felt like and he felt like he needed to go see somebody.”
The Eagles still haven’t made a decision about whether Cooper will play in Friday’s preseason opener. Looking at Cooper fly around the field in Tuesday’s practice, it seems likely that he will.
“As long as we go through this week and everybody practices,” Kelly said. “Again, we’ve got to get through another good day with these guys, so I’m not going to make any predictions. Someone goes down tomorrow or if he were to get hurt tomorrow, so we’ll see, but if he continues to practice, he’ll play.”