Linebacker DeMeco Ryans welcomes back teammate Riley Cooper.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper returned to practice after missing three in four days as a result of racial therapy sessions and time with his family.
According to Cooper and his teammates, it was business as usual in their practice with the New England Patriots — a dress rehearsal for their preseason encounter this Friday. Cooper said after practice he will not seek forgiveness from his teammates for his words, but chose to apologize to each player personally.
During my trip to training camp on Sunday — which Cooper did not attend — I had an opportunity to meet with a couple of the players to discuss their teammate, the impact of the situation and if he be welcomed back into the locker room.
Nate Allen: “It’s unfortunate about Coop and that whole situation. Coop doesn’t have an ounce of hate in his body, but it is what it is and we’re all professionals out here and we have a job to do. No matter what the situation.”
DeSean Jackson: “You never want to see a teammate go through that. It is what it is, we have to move on and not let it be a distraction to our season.” I asked Jackson if he was looking forward to Cooper coming back. “Oh yes, definitely. He’s a teammate of ours and a good player as well, so anytime you have a player that goes through something like that and that kind of punishment you hope he deals with it the best way he can.
Jason Avant: “Most of the guys have accepted his apology and we’re moving on as a team. If you put a camera on everyone, everyday of their life, we would see some ugly things.” Avant continued. “We want to be a merciful organization, it’s not like he’s a repeat offender or anything, as far as we know it’s an isolated incident. We’re going to open our arms with forgiveness.”
As you can see, some players have decided to move on. Of course not every teammate shares the same sentiment. My question is do players really find it this easy to move on? If so, is it because this is a more common occurrence around the NFL or is it because they really believe Riley Cooper isn’t the person his words portray him to be.
Many African-Americans, including myself have said what we would do if we were addressed in that manner. Is it only our anger talking or is it one of those situations where you really have to be in it? The majority of African-American players on the team are torn when it comes to racism and their teammate. Given the season-ending injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn, Cooper is being relied upon heavily by the team. Part of that process means Cooper has to put these events behind him so to speak.
Cooper caught two touchdowns in practice yesterday and received congratulations from teammates regardless of race. Nevermind the reactions of fans — the majority can less who scores or produces. The real test will come when an opposing player — more than likely another African-American — gets in Cooper’s face to tell him what he thinks of him. Will these same players and others be as willing to defend Cooper?
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