Wide receiver Riley Cooper returned to Philadelphia Eagles practice Tuesday, just four days after the team announced he was taking time away to seek counseling after a video surfaced last week of him using a racist epithet at a concert. He practiced with the team against the New England Patriots, spoke to reporters after practice and talked to each of his teammates individually as part of his continued effort to make amends.
"I told them, 'I don't want you to forgive me, because that puts the burden on you, and I want it all on me,'" Cooper said.
Cooper and his teammates are handling this ugly and difficult situation as well as it can be handled, and the main conclusion to be drawn from Tuesday's events is a relatively simple one: The Eagles very much want Cooper to be on their team.
As I've said a few times, I don't get what's so special about Cooper as a player that warrants this headache. He doesn't seem perceptibly better than the other replacement-level receivers they have on the roster, even with starter Jeremy Maclin out for the season with a torn ACL. Somebody suggested in our chat Tuesday that they like him for his blocking, but Pro Football Focus ranked him the 53rd-best blocker last year among wide receivers who played at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps, so I don't see how it's that.
But it's not my team. It's Chip Kelly's and Howie Roseman's and above all else Jeffrey Lurie's. And those guys have decided that Cooper is important enough to their 2013 chances that they need him around and the best thing for them is to work through the current issues and reach a point at which Cooper can play with and for the Eagles. If they didn't think that, he'd likely be gone. They surely have enough volume at the position to compensate for his loss. But there's something about Cooper the player that the Eagles like, and for that reason I would expect to see him a lot in Kelly's offense at least early in this season.