The Riley Cooper saga took a new twist Friday morning when the Eagles announced Cooper "will be excused from all team activities" to seek counseling, in the wake of the controversy over a video that surfaced on the internet of Cooper using the "n-word" during a confrontation with a security guard at a Kenny Chesney concert.
Clearly the team is struggling to find the right tone for its response to this matter. Quickly announcing a fine, with no suspension, and having Cooper back at practice Thursday seemed insufficient to some observers.
'This is all new territory, and we are going to evaluate his timetable every step of the way," the team said in a statement. "He will meet with professionals provided by the Eagles during this period of time to better help him understand how his words have hurt so many, including his teammates."
It's an interesting move from a PR standpoint. It takes Cooper out of the cameras' glare, but it also refocuses the crisis on Day 3, gives reporters a new angle with which to approach teammates, at a time when the matter might have otherwise started to fade. "What do you think about Riley leaving the team?" "Did African-American players request that this happen?"
And now there's the matter of Cooper's return, which whenever it occurs, will be a huge deal.
The team released a new statement from Cooper: "The last few days have been incredibly difficult for me. My actions were inexcusable. The more I think about what I did, the more disgusted I get. I keep trying to figure out how I could have said something so repulsive, and what I can do to make things better.
"Right now, I think it’s important for me to take some time to reflect on this situation. The organization and my teammates have been extremely supportive, but I also realize that there are people who will have a tough time forgiving me for what I’ve done. The best thing for me, and for the team, is to step away for a period of time.
"During this time I’m going to be speaking with a variety of professionals to help me better understand how I could have done something that was so offensive, and how I can start the healing process for everyone. As long as it takes, and whatever I have to do, I’m going to try to make this right."