All eyes have been on the Novacare Complex since Chip Kelly was hired as the Philadelphia Eagles‘ new head coach in February, but this week the attention has been focused on South Philadelphia for all the wrong reasons.
Wide receiver Riley Cooper‘s racially invective comments at a Kenny Chesney concert in June have left hurt feelings and tension throughout the Delaware Valley and a fractured locker room in their wake. Kelly went so far as to label it a concern when he met the media, Thursday.
After holding two team meetings, one in which Cooper addressed the team and one without the 25-year old University of Florida product present, the Eagles announced Friday that he had been excused from all team activities while he seeks mandated racial sensitivity counseling after being fined an undisclosed amount upon the surfacing of the video on Wednesday.
Friday, Michael Vick, one of this team’s more vocal leaders said that despite the divided locker room, the team will welcome Cooper back upon his return.
“We’ve already began to put a plan in place to help Riley come back in full blown and become one of the guys again.” Vick told reporters Friday after practice.
Meanwhile, Cary Williams made it clear that it will take some effort on Cooper’s part before he is fully accepted back into the fold.
“He might have to address the team again,” Williams sad. “When he did it the first time he did it in the bubble. I couldn’t hear what he said, but from what I could tell, he was sincere in what he said. But, some guys may need to hear it. The one thing about this place is that we have some great leaders, guys that have lived through things before. [Michael] Vick, Jason Avant, DeMeco Ryans are guys we live with week in and week out and we just want to follow their leadership.”
Kelly declined to release a timetable for Cooper’s return but for the second day in a row, made it perfectly clear that Cooper’s roster spot has never been at risk.
Just as there is no timetable for Cooper’s counseling, there cannot be a timetable placed on how long and whether or not the players on this team are ready to fully forgive and move past the comments that have caused a deep chasm in the last 72 hours.
For the betterment of this team, both on and off the field, it appears that having Cooper away and getting help as a result of his actions may be the ideal situation to bring the locker room back together.
Matt Lombardo is also a sports radio host on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow him on Twitter.
-All Quotes obtained first hand.