Philadelphia Eagles Moving Forward With Riley Cooper

By Matt Lombardo
Howard Smith – USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday’s joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots was book-ended by milestone moments for Riley Cooper.

Before the full team had even made its way onto the practice field, Cooper emerged from the Novacare Complex tunnel and was nearly immediately greeted by veterans Jason Avant and DeMeco Ryans. Each shared a moment with the embattled wide receiver upon return from a three-day excused absence to seek racial sensitivity training.

Then in the final stages of the workout’s full team 11-11 drills, Cooper caught three deep touchdown passes. The first was a leaping reception in the back of the end zone on a pass thrown by Michael Vick, punctuated by Cooper keeping both feet in bounds. Cooper’s third touchdown grab was on a perfectly thrown ball by Nick Foles which the 25-year old caught in stride.

Cooper’s teammates serenaded him with a chant of “Coop” following his final TD reception, so there’s that in response to the question of just how divided this locker room became in the wake of the fifth-year receiver shouting a racial slur at a security guard during a June Kenny Chesney Concert.

“It felt good. It felt great,” said the receiver following practice. “I love being out there on the field playing football, that’s what I do and that’s what I love. It felt good to be out there with the guys catching and running and making some plays, and them coming up to you, supporting you, high-fiving you, chest-bumping you like Jason Avant did in the end zone when I had that TD. It just felt good to be back out here with all the guys.”

Ryans, one of the team’s strongest leaders, said he feels his teammates are ready to move on.

“I think we’ve move past this as a team,” Ryans said afterwards.

Cooper made it clear after practice that he hopes this story ends with him in Philadelphia.

“I sure do hope so,” he replied. “And I’m going to try each and every day to prove that and just play as hard as I can, play my game, and I want to stay here.”

Head coach Chip Kelly has been one of Cooper’s most outspoken supporters throughout this process and reiterated Tuesday what he said last week, that he hadn’t envisioned a situation where the University of Florida product would be cut.

“I don’t see that happening after talking to our players. I think our players really understand the situation and are working with him to make sure they get a better understanding of the whole situation, but I don’t envision that happening, no,” said Kelly.

After a three-practice absence, it appears clear that the Eagles are in the process of moving forward with Cooper in the fold and past this divisive controversy.

Matt Lombardo is also a sports radio host on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow him on Twitter.

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