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‘Captain Chaos’ returns to Redskins

- Associated Press - Sunday, August 1, 2010

ASHBURN, Va. | Injury, age and competition from an up-and-comer haven't tempered the Captain Chaos side of Chris Cooley. His teammates, fans — and wife — should expect no less.

Take one of his recent vacations. The Washington Redskins tight end took Christy, a petite ex-cheerleader whose modeling credits include Maxim magazine, to Deep Lake in Wyoming and decided to ad-lib his way up the Beartooth Mountains.

"I dragged my wife there. It's a 9-mile hike up 3,500 feet," Cooley said Sunday. "It's insane. I felt so bad by the time I got to the top. We cut our legs all up. It's not even a trail. It was unreal. She made it, though."

Makes sense. Cooley doesn't follow trails, doesn't confine his life to the norm. Last week, when a fan requested a player to assist in a surprise marriage proposal on the sideline at training camp, Cooley was the natural choice, pretending to discover the ring while signing autographs.

And, on the field, Cooley's talent will help the Redskins tweak a few norms. With the emergence of third-year player Fred Davis, the offense has two top-notch pass-catching tight ends. Surely they're competing against each other for playing time, right?

Uh, nope.

"We're kind of both competing together — against the receivers," Cooley said.

Expect plenty of two tight end sets from the Redskins this season, with Cooley and Davis stealing playing time from a group of wideouts that is far from sorting itself out. There wasn't an NFL team that had two tight ends with 40 catches apiece last season; Cooley and Davis should each reach that threshold with room to spare.

"The receiving groups, they're still trying to see who's going to be the 1s, the 2s," Davis said. "(Chris and I) are just trying to make sure we're on the field together — because we both can be deep threats."

Santana Moss remains the team's No. 1 receiver, but he's topped the 1,000-yard mark only once since 2005. Third-year wideouts Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly are still trying to prove themselves as reliable starters, with Thomas getting the edge so far at camp because Kelly is sidelined with a hamstring injury. Both were ranked behind well-past-his-prime Joey Galloway on the depth chart at the start of camp.

Besides, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's play book makes no distinction between tight end and receiver.

"They're all the same position," Shanahan said. "They're all interchangeable. It's 'What's the best matchups?' And what helps us move the chains."

Sure enough, Cooley had one practice that featured him in an alphabet soup worth of positions, lining up all over the field.

"So far in this offense I've played the Z, I've played the F, I've played the Y, I've played the E," he said. "I'm looking to play quarterback soon."

Davis finished strong last season to finish with 48 receptions after Cooley was lost for the season with a broken ankle after seven games. Cooley had prided himself on never missing a game — and barely a practice — over his NFL career before the injury, so he's overjoyed to be healthy again.

"I love being out here and I love being with the guys," Cooley said. "It's so much fun to compete. It's something that I've dreamed of doing and it's still something that I want to be the best at. It was very hard for me to sit out and watch last year."

Cooley played in back-to-back Pro Bowls before the injury. At age 28, he could have many more all-star appearances in front of him, assuming the offense is as productive as promised — and assuming he and Davis don't cancel each other out in the minds of voters.

Growing up a Denver Broncos fan in Utah, Cooley recalls childhood memories of watching eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Shannon Sharpe prosper under new Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.

"To be a part of this offense is really neat for me. To sit down and just talk to Mike Shanahan for the first time was kind of cool," Cooley said. "I was in awe a little bit."

A feeling of awe? It can even happen to Captain Chaos.

Note: Mike Shanahan said he expects Kelly to return to practice in a couple of days. "He looked better today, much improved," the coach said. ... DT Albert Haynesworth's failure to pass the conditioning test remains the No. 1 topic at camp. When a reporter joked that he did the conditioning test in his sleep, Mike Shanahan looked at the reporter and said with a smile: "You did it in your sleep? That's the only way you're going to do it."

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