Choking back tears Tuesday afternoon, Chris Cooley delivered the news himself.
“The Washington Redskins are releasing me today,” he said. “So today, for the time being, will be my last day as a Redskin.”
With that, the Redskins said goodbye to their longest-tenured player and one considered the most popular, at least until the arrival of Robert Griffin III. Cooley, 30, had been with the team since being drafted in the third round of 2004 draft, but in releasing him coach Mike Shanahan said the Redskins wanted to give him a chance to start somewhere else in the NFL.
“He wants to be a starter in the National Football League if he does play. I told him that Fred [Davis] was going to be our starter,” Shanahan said. “There was obviously no guarantees, but if he wanted to be a starter I would give him every option to seek that opportunity out. And that’s what we’re doing at this time is giving him an opportunity to see if there is a chance for him to be a starter on another football team in the National Football League.”
Cooley’s 2011 season was derailed by a left knee injury. He had played all 16 games in five of the previous six seasons, making the Pro Bowl twice.
“It’s been awesome. I’ve been very, very fortunate to play for a franchise that has embraced me and for a fan base that has embraced me the way that they have,” he said. “This organization has changed my life in every way for the better, and I appreciate it. I’ve loved every minute of playing here. It’s been a good ride. It’s been a pleasure.”
The ride in Washington is over after 428 catches for 4,703 yards and 33 touchdowns.
“I’ll take some time and decide what I want to do moving forward. I have every belief that I can play football,” Cooley said. “I have every belief that I can be not only a productive player, but a starter in this league. I’m very confident in my abilities to continue to play the game.”