Two days after he was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list, Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley called himself a “casualty of the [NFL] lockout,” because he was prohibited from rehabilitating his surgically-repaired knee at the team facility this offseason.
“I feel 100 percent – and I’m not blaming anybody. I feel one hundred percent that I am a casualty for the season, of the lockout,” Cooley said. “I think it was a shame that they didn’t let players who had surgery spend time with the doctors and trainers that they trust on a daily basis. I wish I could’ve. I think what I went through in July, I could’ve went through in March. I started doing things and it slowly swelled up and I wasn’t here. I can ice it at home and do things at home … But I’ve never been through it before.”
The eighth-year pro, who spoke publicly for the first time since the team decided to end his season, expressed confidence that he can return to full strength after resting and rehabilitating his balky left knee for the next few months, and confidently talked about playing as an “elite tight end” for the Redskins for years to come.
Hampered all season by an inflamed knee — the same knee on which he had arthroscopic surgery at the end of the 2010 season — Cooley on Monday traveled to Pensacola, Fla., to have a consultation with renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews and hoped to find out why his knee had yet to heal despite repeated treatment and rest.
“We did another MRI of my knee, we did more weight-bearing X-rays of my knee and we made a conscious decision that four or five weeks wasn’t enough time to ensure that it would get better,” said Cooley, who missed all of the preseason and this regular season was limited to just eight catches for 65 yards. “We didn’t want to go in further and do a microfracture surgery. Microfracture surgery would limit my chances of playing next season. And so, we made the decision that if I take three to four months right now without running, seriously rehabbing my knee, I should be fine next year, I should have no swelling and should not have to incur a more invasive procedure, and that was not only in the best interest of myself, but also the Washington Redskins and me performing for this team for the next four or five years.”
Cooley called the fact that he won’t play again this season “unfortunate” and said that his biggest disappointment stemmed from the fact that he believes the Redskins have a chance to rebound from a two-game slide and contend in the division and league this season.
“I told [Shanahan] that I’ll never forgive myself if we are in the playoffs and I can’t play in any role,” said Cooley, who had 100 CCs drained from his knee 15 times this season. “Even in the capacity I was at, the opportunity to win meant so much to me that I didn’t want to spend time out. … I want to help the team. I can’t hold them hostage. I can’t go into coach Shanahan’s office and say, ‘You’re going to give me seven weeks, and you’re going to hold a roster spot for me while I hopefully get better.’ That’s not fair to anybody and I’m completely comfortable with the decision that was made for me to go on IR. I’m completely comfortable with spending the time with our organization, with Larry Hess … and looking forward to being an elite tight end in this league, which I know that I am when I’m healthy.”
This season Cooley became the franchise's most prolific tight end, with 428 catches for 4,703 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Cooley’s status with the team going forward is somewhat uncertain. His 2012 salary of $3.8 million isn’t guaranteed, and the younger, more athletic Fred Davis is due to become a free agent, and Washington will want to re-sign him.
But the day after Shanahan said that he envisions Cooley, 29, remaining with the team, Cooley said that he too has no doubt that he will return.
“Every part of me continues to believe that I will continue to play for the Washington Redskins, but I will continue to be an outstanding player at the position I play,” Cooley said. “I have so much confidence in my ability to play tight end, and my ability to play tight end at a very high level if I’m healthy. I’ve been here long enough and it’s amazing what this franchise means to me and what our fans mean to me and how supportive they’ve been of me. Of course you can talk about trading, or not playing, getting cut. But I’m part of this team, our general manager our head coach believe in me, I believe in myself and am confident I will continue to play very well for us in the future, and not next year, but for a continued number of years. I have no desire to be a part of any other organization, and I have no desire to retire. I love coming to work, and only thing I want to achieve is winning a Super Bowl, and I’ve got to play to do that.”