Chris Cooley has to get the brace on his ailing left knee refitted on Monday. The swelling has reduced so much since last week that it's too loose.
"I noticed today and was like, 'Aw, sweet,'" he said.
The Washington Redskins' star tight end believes his surgically-repaired knee finally is healing properly. He insisted he will play the regular-season opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 11.
"As long as everything continues, I hope to be back in some capacity on the field next week," he said Monday morning. "I can't imagine not playing against the Giants."
Cooley had arthroscopic knee surgery on Jan. 3 but could not rehabilitate under the supervision of Redskins' trainers and strength coaches after the lockout began on March 12.
He tried fully participating in training camp practices, but his knee reacted badly and swelled. The issue is not his meniscus.
"I have enough cartilage in my knee," he said. "The problem was over a long period of time I was starting to bruise around it and the joint around it was becoming so irritated."
Cooley recently visited renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who prescribed more rest. He has been running, however, on an anti-gravity treadmill at Redskins Park. His plan Monday was to run at 50 percent of his body weight.
"You zip in this cool thing and it fills up with air all around you and it's like an air thing," he said. "If you take it down to 20 percent of your weight, it feels like you're on the moon. It's awesome. It's NASA technology. Whoever thought of this is a genius."
If Monday's run goes well, he'll increase by increments of 10 percent until he is able to run on all of his weight. Then he'll return to practice.
Cooley expects to have to manage the pain all season, but he plans on participating in practices during the week. He takes pride in his durability, having rarely missed a practice in more than five seasons before he broke his leg during a game in 2009.
"I would have to be really sore; it would have to be really a problem for me to not practice on Wednesdays," he said.
He'll continue to observe his teammates for the rest of the preseason, and in a way, that's painful, too.
"It's been a long time since we've looked this good in the preseason," he said. "And it's not because we're over-game-planning or doing anything special. Guys are just looking good. Players are fitting, and it seems like everyone is having so much fun. It's hard to stand back and watch that. It's also a positive thing, but it's hard to watch for me."
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