A Washington Redskins team in desperate need of more weapons instead has lost another key offensive component. For the second time in three years, tight end Chris Cooley’s season will end early due to injury.
The Redskins announced Tuesday that Cooley, an eight-year veteran, had become Washington’s third offensive starter in two weeks to join the season-ending injured reserve list. The Redskins also have lost guard Kory Lichtensteiger and running back Tim Hightower to ACL tears.
Cooley had surgery on a broken index finger last week and was expected to miss at least four games. But it’s apparently his knee that was the bigger problem. Cooley met with orthopedist James Andrews on Monday afternoon.
“I think he’s gonna probably take a look at an MRI, take a look at some X-rays and give us his opinion,” Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday.
It was not immediately known Tuesday evening whether Cooley would require surgery on his knee.
Cooley has been among the franchise’s most recognizable faces the past several seasons and one of its most consistent performers. He is a two-time Pro Bowler who earlier this season became the Redskins’ all-time leading receiver among tight ends.
Despite his success, Cooley’s long-term future in Washington may not be known for several months. Cooley will be 30 years old before next season begins, and although his contract for next season is not guaranteed, he’s due to earn $3.8 million in 2012.
Slowed by a bad knee all preseason, he took on a diminished role in the team’s first five games and had just eight catches for 65 yards this season. Tight end Fred Davis, meanwhile, became one of the Redskins’ top receiving options. Through six games, Davis leads the team with 28 receptions and 423 yards. He also has two touchdowns.
Cooley broke his finger in Washington’s Week 6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but his left knee is what has really affected him this season. He had arthroscopic surgery on the joint immediately following the 2010 season, but it still bothered him when the Redskins reported for training camp in July.
He missed all of the preseason, had the knee drained several times and underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy in order to play in Week 1 against the New York Giants.
Each week, he spoke hopefully about the knee’s progress and was excited for the rest of the season. As recently as Friday, Cooley said he expected to return.
“This has been a weird year for me,” he said. “Not practicing in camp, then not playing the way I want to play, now being hurt for another month — I’ve never experienced something like this.”
The Redskins are reeling from other injuries to their offensive personnel, including Santana Moss, who is out five to seven weeks with a broken hand; Trent Williams, who missed Sunday’s game with a high ankle sprain; and backup quarterback Rex Grossman, who was hospitalized with pneumonia. On defense, starting free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe missed Sunday’s game as well.
The Redskins have not announced any additions to the 53-man roster. Second-year tight end Logan Paulsen saw increased action in last Sunday's loss at Carolina, posting two catches for 48 yards.
“Logan Paulsen’s been very consistent since he’s been here,” Shanahan said Monday. “He’s a guy who’s done a good job with the running game, good job in the passing game, he’s really consistent. I thought he handled himself extremely well in that game, making some big plays, big catches, big blocks. He’ll continue to get better.”
Cooley was a third-round draft pick in 2004 by Joe Gibbs and Vinny Cerrato. Though he will have missed a total of 20 games from 2009 to 2011, he didn’t miss a single game in his first five seasons. In fact, he didn’t miss a single practice either.
He was asked last week about the Redskins’ constant rotation at quarterback during his tenure in Washington and how it has affected his career.
“I’ve been happy with my career and you can’t change the way it’s been,” Cooley said. “It could’ve gone any way. I’m happy with the way my career has went. I’d just like to win more football games.”