Washington Redskins’ tight end Chris Cooley said Monday that he expects to see time at fullback in Thursday’s preseason opener at Buffalo.

Darrel Young normally would start at fullback for the Redskins, but the third-year pro strained his left hamstring during practice last week and isn’t expected to return to action for a couple more weeks.

Cooley has a good bit of familiarity with the duties of the fullback in Washington’s system because as a rookie, he played H-back (a blend of tight end and fullback) in then-coach Joe Gibbs’s offense. And in Mike Shanahan’s offense, tight ends are at times expected to handle some of the same responsibilities as fullbacks. Cooley also started at fullback in place of Young during Washington’s game at Dallas in Week 3 last season.

“Fullback’s just another part of our offense. We have a ‘move’ position – the Joe Gibbs H-back type of deal. We call it Tiger … It’s all the same position. They’re interchangeable. I know our offense well, and I feel very capable playing any of those positions. I’m excited for the opportunity to play a little fullback.”

Cooley continued: “As far as getting the blocks down, I’ve never had a problem getting the blocks down out of the backfield. Would you look at me as a punishing, Mike Sellers, Darrel Young type of blocker? No. But I’m going to get the block in the hole, I’m going to get my hat on the linebacker, and the running back’s always going to have a chance.”

Cooley said he doesn’t yet know how his snaps will be divided on Thursday. In the last week, he has seen time at both tight end and fullback. The ninth-year pro is simply glad to be back on the field.

The game against Buffalo will mark Cooley’s first action since his season ended in Game 5 last year. Suffering from finger and knee injuries, Cooley was placed on injured reserve. For the year, Cooley recorded eight catches for 65 yards, and two carries for three yards.

Cooley was bothered by the same knee for much of the 2010 season, but played all 16 games. He had arthroscopic surgery on it in January of 2011, and never was able to return to full strength.

“To be honest, I couldn’t move well on the field last year. I had a lot of fluid in my knee at all times,” Cooley said. “I had a hard time going two days in a row. [Now], I’m continuing to build speed, I’m continuing to get better on my feet. My routes are getting better throughout training camp. I feel like I’m getting back to the player I know I can be.”

This year, Cooley has practiced without limitation, and coaches also have observed steady improvement in his game.

“I think Chris is a pro. He’s come back and he looks good,” Shanahan says. “I don’t see any signs of a hamstring, a groin, the knee. And, usually, if something is bothering a player, you find it out in the first week. So Chris has been able to have good practices.”

Cooley is encouraged by his progress, but he said his comeback is far from complete.

“I think I’ve worked very hard to get myself in position to play, and play at a high level this year,” he said. “I’ve been able to stay healthy, and everyone expects me to be healthy, and it’s a good feeling so far. Now, it going to have to transition to me putting myself on the field for it to be a really great feeling. It’s not going to be that great a feeling if I’m standing on the sidelines, so I still have a lot of work to do.”

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