Cooley, who was released by the Redskins before the season, passed a physical Monday and re-signed with the team. He took the roster spot of tight end Fred Davis, who was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list after suffering a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon during Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants. Davis is scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday and faces a rehabilitation of five to six months, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday.
The Redskins lost this season’s leader in receiving yards and catches in Davis and have been playing without Pierre Garcon, the wide reciever signed as a free agent in March to give quarterback Robert Griffin III a speedy and reliable pass catcher. Garcon has missed four of seven games this season because of a foot injury.
The Redskins have remained a potent offense largely because of Griffin and tailback Alfred Morris. Veteran wide receiver Santana Moss provided two touchdown catches against the Giants. But the Redskins need someone to emerge in their receving group, and are crossing their fingers that Cooley has enough left to help out.
“Any time you lose a guy like Fred,” Shanahan said, “it’s always tough. . . . I thought he was having a heck of a year. Fred’s really disappointed because he was excited about himself, his play. We’re excited about him. But like all injuries, guys have got to step up and play at a high level. . . .
“We’ll have Chris come in, knowing the system. We expect him to play at the level that he’s played at in the past. Now guys get more of an opportunity to show us what they can do.”
The Redskins also have tight ends Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul on the roster. Paulsen played well Sunday after Davis was hurt. Paulsen had four catches for 76 yards against the Giants.
In Cooley, the Redskins are bringing back the franchise’s career leader in catches by a tight end. He had a 77-catch season as recently as two years ago and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection in his eight seasons with the Redskins. But Cooley, 30, had only eight catches in five games in 2011 before his season was ended by knee and finger injuries.
He worked his way back and said during training camp that his knee felt fine. But much of his playing time during preseason games came at fullback, not tight end, and the Redskins said when they released him that they were allowing him to seek a starting opportunity with another team. But the Redskins never ruled out re-signing him and Shanahan said he called Cooley late Sunday after the team’s return from East Rutherford, N.J.
“I called Chris when we landed and asked him what type of shape he was in, and he felt like he was in pretty good shape,” Shanahan said. “I asked him if he’d like to come back and he said he did. So we’re excited to have him. I trust Chris. If he says he’s in good shape, he’s in good shape. Hopefully he can help us this next week.”
Cooley said he’s been given no promises about his role.
“The only thing I’ve really heard is that the team is counting on me . . . to play,” Cooley said in a conference call with reporters. “I’m not sure what it’ll be Week 1. I’m not sure how I’ll transition into that. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I’m just there to do what they ask me to do. Obviously I want it to be a large role. But if it’s not in Week 1, I’m not going to be unhappy.”
Cooley said he was disappointed for Davis. He was listening to Sunday’s game on the radio, he said, and knew when he heard that Davis had removed his receiving gloves that the injury was probably serious. That’s what he did, he said, the two times that he had season-ending injuries. So Cooley expected the Redskins to call.
“I was definitely okay with not playing football this year,” Cooley said. “I thought a lot about playing other places and just didn’t really like the idea of moving and making that change at this point in my life. And so I started doing what I wanted to do, started doing some media stuff and everything out here, and that was fine with me.”
Cooley said he’s been jogging and running sprints in his yard to stay in shape but he “wasn’t at home doing squats and power-cleans and listening to ‘Rocky’ music.” Still, he said he’s ready to play and believes he still has some good football left in him.
“I’m only 30 years old,” Cooley said. “I know I can keep playing. I just didn’t want to play in a situation where I was in a diminished role from what I knew I could be. It was hard for me and I would have done it for the team that I love. But I think if I get an opportunity to show them what I can do and show them I’m healthy . . . I think it’ll give me an opportunity to prolong my career.”