Veteran tight end Chris Cooley on Thursday afternoon vowed he will return to play for the Redskins at an elite level next season and in future years.
Cooley is out for the season because of lingering problems involving his surgically-repaired left knee. Renowned orthopedist James Andrews earlier this week recommended three to four months of rehabilitation to avoid a microfracture surgery that would jeopardize his career, so he agreed to follow that course.
Cooley spoke deeply about about his future, the causes of his current plight, his career and his place in the Redskins organization. Here are the highlights:
On whether his career will continue:
“Every part of me absolutely believes that not only will I continue to play for the Washington Redskins but I’ll continue to be an outstanding player at the position I play. I have so much confidence in my ability to play tight end at a very high level, especially if I’m healthy.
“I’ve been here long enough, and it’s amazing what this franchise means to me and what our fans mean to me and how supportive everyone has been of me. Of course you can talk about not playing again or whatever—trading, getting cut. I’m part of this team. Our general manager and our head coach believe in me and I believe in myself, and I have no doubt that I’ll play very well for us in the future—and not [just] next year but a continued number of years. I have no desire to play for anyone else. I have no desire to be a part of any other organization, and I have no desire to retire. I absolutely love this game. I love coming to work. The only thing I want to achieve is winning a Super Bowl. I’ve got to play to do that.”
On why his knee remained a problem following surgery in January:
“I felt terrible when we got [to] training camp, which I was really disappointed in. I feel like that’s a letdown to the team, the organization, to the fans to show up after six months off and not be better. I felt almost embarrassed that I wasn’t better from my injury. So I wanted to do everything I could to play right then. It wasn’t that I didn’t do anything. I worked hard. It’s just that I probably should have taken more time rehabbing initially. That’s again stubbornness of me thinking I’m going to be OK and I’m going to just work through pain. That’s how I’ve gotten through my entire career is working through pain and it has always worked, and it didn’t work this time.”
On how being locked out of team headquarters affected his rehabilitation:
“I feel 100 percent—and I’m not blaming anybody—but I feel 100 percent that I’m a casualty for the season of the lockout. I think it was a shame that they didn’t let players who had surgeries spend time with the doctors and trainers they trust on a daily basis. I wished I could have. What I went through in July, I think I could have went through in March. I felt OK in March, and when I was cleared, I started doing things and it slowly swelled up and I wasn’t here. I can ice it at home and I can do things at home. It’s a shame it is the way it is and there’s no one to blame. I guess the person to truly blame to say I should’ve thought more about it, it’s just something I’ve never went through and I was on my own.”
On the current state of his knee and how it got to this point:
“Microfracture [surgery] is a long recovery time, and it’s not 100 percent. Dr. Andrews thought a microfracture would be 50/50 at best 70 percent that I would play again. We felt based on the wear in the medial side of my knee and based on previous cases that a lot of players play with what I have, my problem wasn’t just my medial cartilage. It was the entire joint staying inflamed because I couldn’t keep swelling out of it. I was also incurring quite a bit of tendonitis. I had a lot of lateral pain, which was very strange.
“To be honest with you, it hurt to run 10 yards. I could admit it to myself and to our coaches. I wouldn’t say it to anybody else, but at the point I hit 10 yards I wasn’t fast. I wasn’t quick out of cuts. That being said, the role I was in, playing some fullback, blocking at the line of scrimmage, I was helping this team. Regardless of my finger being broken, I was going to need some time off anyway.”
“I’m a pretty stubborn person. For whatever reason I have a high pain tolerance. It’s not because I think I’m tough, it’s just naturally I have a higher pain tolerance. …I drained 100 CCs out of my knee 15 times this season. When we stepped back and analyzed it again with me having time off, we just said, ‘This is not right. It’s not normal for anyone to do this and it’s going to get worse.’”
On his motivation moving forward:
“I’ve accomplished beyond my wildest dreams individually what I could have ever hoped for as a player—to have over 400 catches for this organization, to make two Pro Bowls. I’m amazed. I remember being in Hawaii for the first time thinking: I didn’t even think I’d play in this league, a kid from Wyoming, and I’m sitting here at the Pro Bowl looking around. Peyton Manning is sitting next to me. That’s amazing to me.
“That being said, that’s all fun, and that’s a great part of this game, but the thing I remember the most is going to the Super Bowl and watching the Saints run out of the tunnel. I watched those guys run out of the tunnel and thought nothing would ever compare to that. Nothing would beat the feeling of running onto the field to play the Super Bowl and being apart of the team that won the Super Bowl.
“But I’ve been here so long, and this has been such an important part of my life, Washington D.C., I live in Leesburg. I don’t’ want to run through the tunnel in another uniform. I don’t want to finish my career looking at a team that can win the Super Bowl and say I want to go anywhere just to win the Super Bowl. This will be the only team I care about the rest of my life, and I want to do it with this team. As cliché as that may sound, that’s true. I’m a fan of the Washington Redskins. I’m a fan of the guys that played before me. I love being a part of it. So yeah, the Super Bowl for this team is why I’ll continue to play this game.”