So does Cooley still fit in and, if so, how? The plan, it appears, is for the Redskins to use Cooley in small doses to keep him fresh and maximize his effectiveness.
“I think Chris has done a good job,” Shanahan said this week. “The big questions that usually pop up this time of year, especially after a guy does come off an injury last year or the year before . . . [are] can he stay healthy and has he lost anything? And we’ll get a chance to see him the next couple games playing, and hopefully he’s set to play at that same level and he can still stay healthy.”
Cooley, who would count more than $6 million against the salary cap if he is with the team this season, started at fullback in last week’s preseason-opening victory at the Buffalo Bills because first-stringer Darrel Young was sidelined by a hamstring injury. The next two preseason games, this Saturday night at the Chicago Bears and a week later at home against the Indianapolis Colts, could be more telling.
“I don’t think I’m in any case best suited to be a Pro Bowl fullback or a wide receiver,” Cooley said. “But I’m capable, I think, in some capacity to fit all those roles. I think that if I can do that well, it gives us our offense a lot of diversity.”
Cooley’s teammates say they believe he’s doing well. Paul said that the Cooley he sees on the training camp practice field this summer is “the Chris Cooley that I used to watch back in the day,” by which he meant not all that long ago.
Said wide receiver Josh Morgan, who was signed by the Redskins as a free agent in the offseason: “He’s a cool vet out there. Strange guy, but real funny, real humble, real hard worker. You can see he’s still got a lot of play-making ability in him. He just comes in, shuts his mouth and works hard every day, a true professional.”
The free-spirited Cooley, the guy who once created a stir by accidentally posting a photo of his private parts on his blog, now finds himself in the role of locker room elder statesman.
He is a different kind of leader, perhaps, but now an example for younger players.
“If I am in any capacity a leader,” he said, “then it is [as] the guy who shows up and works hard every day and is accountable for his job. As far as I feel, football is a game. And if I can’t come every day and enjoy what I do and have fun and make it a fun environment, then it’s not something that I should be doing. And so I probably don’t show that leadership the same as other guys do. But at the same time, I take it very, very seriously.”