Sleepless night for Cooper; Kelly sees long struggle
Riley Cooper practiced with his teammates Thursday, after what he said was a sleepless night in which he was unable to eat.
Sleepless night for Cooper; Kelly sees long struggle
Although several team leaders spoke out in support of Riley Cooper, many Eagles - the majority of them African American - are having a difficult time accepting the wide receiver's apology for using a racial slur, team sources said Thursday.
One prominent Eagle questioned the punishment - Cooper was fined an undisclosed amount of money - handed down by owner Jeffrey Lurie and new coach Chip Kelly.
"I'll tell you one thing, if it was Andy Reid, he would have gotten more than a fine," the player said Thursday on the condition of anonymity.
Kelly said that he didn't foresee any further discipline. "Right now, I don't see it going beyond" the fine, he said.
Another veteran Eagle who did not want to be identified said that he couldn't reconcile Cooper's using the word "n-" and that he didn't think he would ever speak to the fourth-year wide receiver again.
"The coaches are saying we should think team first, but this is just crazy," the player said. "Was he thinking about the team when he said that?"
Running back LeSean McCoy was the first player to go on record and suggest that he would have a difficult time forgetting what Cooper had said in June at a Kenny Chesney concert.
"I forgave Riley. It's new. Hopefully it wears off," McCoy said. "But at this point, I speak for myself and other teammates, it's definitely different."
McCoy was quoted by an NFL Network reporter saying, "I can't respect a guy like that."
The running back said that he had considered Cooper a friend. He said he had yet to speak with his teammate since he stood up and apologized to the team during a meeting at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday.
"I didn't see too many people speak to him today," McCoy said.
Cooper said that he was encouraged by the support he received from some of his teammates. He said that he didn't come in contact with any players who were upset with him, although he said he had yet to meet with a number of Eagles.
"A bunch of them have come up to me and said, 'We support you. We know what kind of guy you are, and we're here for you,' " Cooper said. "So in that regard, that felt good."
McCoy was embroiled in controversy this offseason when he made derogatory comments toward the apparent mother of his son on Twitter. He apologized afterward.
A few months later, he was accused of assaulting a woman after she claimed in a civil suit that McCoy's bodyguard threw her off a party bus rented by McCoy. He vigorously denied the allegations, and charges were never filed by police.
On Wednesday, when the video was first posted, linebacker DeMeco Ryans and several other veterans said they didn't think that Cooper's slur would divide the locker room. Wide receiver Jason Avant did say that some players might need as long as a month to forgive Cooper.
However, another Eagle said that a line was being drawn between players who were ready to move on after the incident and those who weren't sure if they could forget what Cooper had said.
"If he's on the team, he's on the team," the player said. "Don't mean I have to like him."
Avant said that if the ill will toward Cooper festered it could create a division.
"You have to let it go," he said, "because it will create an atmosphere of the whites in this corner and the blacks in this corner, and we definitely don't want that as a team."
McCoy said that he had difficulty understanding Cooper's real intentions because the slur was caught on tape after he had been drinking.
"When something like that happens, you're like, 'Are you really the same person?' " McCoy said. "It's not a point where I'm [ticked] off at a person, and I'll just say something racial. It's more anger at the person . . . not the race."
McCoy later added: "I was definitely embarrassed. He was one of my good friends on this team, and I felt like it was a manner of thinking that the cameras were off, nobody's watching, and that's when a person shows who they really are. And that's exactly what took place."
The Eagles said that Lurie made the decision to fine Cooper. Reid, in the past, doled out many of the punishments to his players, although Lurie was certainly involved. Two years ago, receiver DeSean Jackson was suspended for a game when he was late for a special-teams meeting.
"In any business, sometimes you have the bosses that are in charge," McCoy said. "Mr. Lurie has done a good job of handling it, [also] Coach Kelly."
Center Jason Kelce, who was with Cooper at the time of the incident, said that he thought the players would be able to get over what Cooper said.
"I think especially with core guys that are going to be on the team and that are going to be interacting with him on a daily basis, everyone will eventually get over it," said Kelce, who is white. "How that time frame goes for certain people . . . obviously that word doesn't have the same effect and meaning when I hear it as some of the other guys on the team."
A number of new players - free-agent acquisitions and rookies, for example - are on the team, though.
"I don't know them well enough to get their opinion on it," Kelce said. "Hopefully, as those new guys get to know [Cooper], they'll be able to forgive him."