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Redskins' Cooley played with concussion, later took himself out of game

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 19, 2010; 1:04 AM

Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said Monday he suffered a concussion-inducing hit in the second quarter of Sunday night's loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but he kept playing and remained coherent until, after halftime, he felt slow and eventually pulled himself.

Speaking during his weekly appearance on WJFK's "The LaVar Arrington Show with Chad Dukes," Cooley described the process in which he suffered what he considered a "bell-ringer" of a hit, but passed doctors' tests and therefore remained in the game.

"It was right before half, and I came off the field and took a breath and said, 'Wow,' " Cooley said. "And then I went in at halftime and kind of had the idea that I could come back out, get moving around a little bit and feel okay. It wasn't like I, at the time, thought I had a bad concussion.

"I was completely there. I passed all the doctors' tests and stuff, but as I kept playing, it just started to get more and more of a headache, and I was a little bit slow, and I went over to our trainers and just said, 'It's done.' You don't want to risk it."

Cooley is just the latest Redskin to deal with what amounts to the NFL's hot-button injury. Linebacker Rocky McIntosh sat out the Indianapolis game after suffering a concussion Oct. 10 against Green Bay. Marquee running back Clinton Portis missed the final seven games of 2009 after suffering a concussion at Atlanta.

A top NFL official on Monday said the league would crack down on dangerous, illegal hits following a weekend of games punctuated by player head injuries.

"It's scary, to be honest with you, because you see the ramifications that can come from multiple concussions," said Redskins fullback Mike Sellers, who said he rethought the way he deals with the issue after being knocked out earlier in his career. "You tend to worry about that. I change my helmet every year. I try to find the newest and best equipment out there considering what I do."

Cooley played in the third quarter of what became a 27-24 loss, even catching two passes. But he dropped a third-down throw during the Redskins' third possession of the half and, as Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday, "We could see very quickly that something was wrong."

Cooley, the Redskins' second-leading receiver in both catches and yards, went to the locker room between the third and fourth quarters.

Cooley said he underwent "baseline testing" Monday - tests designed to measure a player's cognitive functions after a hit and compare them to responses recorded when he was completely healthy - and he was "pretty close" to normal. He said he is scheduled for a CT scan Tuesday, and that he must be symptom-free for two days before he will be allowed to practice. Asked if he expected to play Sunday at Chicago, he said: "I would like to, yeah."

Though football-related head injuries have received considerably more attention in recent years - initially from academic studies that led to Congressional inquiries, then eventually by the NFL itself - Cooley's case shows that players can still return to the field after they suffer a concussion-inducing hit. As Cooley said, "I didn't want to accept it," a response that remains typical for NFL players in mid-game.

"Throughout my career, I think most people do try to do that," Shanahan said. "Chris probably just - I can't speak for Chris, you'll have to ask him - but he's a competitor. [He] probably didn't think it was anything big, and wanted to go back in there."

Cooley, who missed the final nine games of the 2009 season because of a broken ankle, said he suffered two concussions in college.

"I've had way worse," he said. "I've lost a day before."

He said tight ends coach Jon Embree, who was aware Cooley had been hit hard, kept asking Cooley questions about previous plays in the game, trying to see if he remembered. Cooley said he had some problems with peripheral vision, but that his memory remained intact.

"I was totally there yesterday," Cooley said. "I remember every part of the game. I remember all the plays."

Should Cooley miss any time - "Hopefully, Chris won't be out," Shanahan said - third-year tight end Fred Davis will take his place. Davis has played almost exclusively in two-tight end sets this season, joining Cooley on the field, but he caught 48 passes for 509 yards last season, most of that production after Cooley was out.

"The chance to get in there and get some catches, you know these are the opportunities," Davis said Sunday night. "Whenever it comes, you got to take it, and roll with it."

Cooley, though, did not sound concerned about his long-term prognosis - either for returning to the field or dealing with the punishing blows dished out in the NFL once he is there.

"I don't think I'm going to worry in the back of my mind about taking a hit," Cooley said on WJFK. "It's the one thing about the job that we do that you don't want. I mean, you don't want to have a bunch of concussions. It's a terrible effect on you later in life. I'll make sure I'm okay before I do anything. But I think I'll be fine."

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