“What’s up?” Chris Cooley says, stretching his arms out, yawning.
He’s been getting up at 8 a.m., but it was 7 today because he has to be at work by 8 a.m. — going back to his old job at an Ashburn factory.
Not that any political candidate will take note, but another Virginian got off the unemployment roll this past week. One man tears his Achilles, another signs a contract. In the broken-body world of the NFL, this is known as job creation.
Cooley walks out of his kitchen, locks the animals back in, and wraps his arms around his burgundy shoulder pads, helmet and cleats — the exact same pads, helmet and cleats he cleared out of his locker in August, after the Redskins released the tight end with the most catches in franchise history.
“Can you open the back?” he asks.
He gets in the passenger’s seat, pops open a sugar-free Red Bull.
When you’ve known someone since he was 22 and he’s now an evolved 30 — heck, when you realize you’re 18 months shy of 50 yourself — you can develop some paternal feelings, to the point where you might offer a ride to work on his first day back.
“Left here,” he says as the minivan snakes down the hill upon which he lives.
It is exactly 22 minutes from Cooley’s home to Redskins Park, via the Dulles Greenway, 22 minutes of burnt-orange skies peeking through oaks as the sun rises. You immediately get right to the heart of the interview.
You think if Robert Griffin has a kid he’ll be RGIV?
Cooley: “He’s got to be.”
There’s no use searching for a negative in this guy, is there?
“There just isn’t one.”
Sometimes I think, ‘If I could’ve been that mature at 22, I could’ve done some real big stuff.’
“Are you kidding me, me too . . . it’s unreal . . . he’s good at everything. Even his commercials are good. They don’t suck; they’re not weird. No one teases him about them. . . .
“I just hope it works out, and I get to play. I know I can play well. I just hope it works out.”
You drive down winding country roads, take a shortcut through an office park, onto the main thoroughfare.
“Best-case scenario is I play the way Fred [Davis] was playing. The real ideal is I play and we win.”
“Everybody is like, ‘First day coming back, are you excited? Are you nervous?’ I’m not [expletive] nervous. It’s Wednesday at Redskins Park. It’s not my first Wednesday at Redskins Park ever. I know exactly what we’re doing today.
“I missed seven weeks total and people are like ‘Can you come back and play, do you think you can do it’ Yeah, I think I can do it. Granted I understand I haven’t played a real football game in an entire year, but, yeah, I think I can come back and play.”
Have you texted Fred or talked to him?
“Yeah, he’s pretty down. I mean it’s a contract year for Fred. So if he plays at the level he’s playing, ends up with 60 catches, think of what that equates to. I mean $20 million up front, $40 million dollar deal.”