- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chris Cooley’s stall inside the Redskins Park locker room is located along the far wall near the back left corner. That’s where it was last season, and it’s where he expects it to be in 2012 and beyond.

The veteran tight end set aside his crutches Thursday afternoon, stepped on the podium and vowed to overcome his ongoing left knee problems by next season.

“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,” he said. “I have so much confidence in my ability to play tight end at a very high level, especially if I’m healthy.”

For 16 minutes, Cooley fielded questions about topics ranging from his injury to his future to his career and overall place in the organization.

He spoke from the heart, offering the insight he has acquired since the Redskins drafted him out of Utah State in the third round in 2004. In characteristic fashion, he mixed passion and humor into his words.

Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto will be only the 11th game he has missed out of a possible 118 in his career. He still is coming to terms with his relegation to the sideline, but he’s confident it is temporary.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Renowned orthopedist James Andrews recommended Cooley be placed on the season-ending injured reserve list in order to avoid exacerbating his surgically-repaired knee, Cooley said. The fractured left index finger he suffered on Oct. 16 was going to keep him out at least a month, anyway. Three to four months of knee rehab should allow him to avoid microfracture surgery that could end his career.

“To be honest with you, it hurt to run 10 yards,” Cooley said. “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.

“I’m a pretty stubborn person. For whatever reason, I have a high 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.’”

Cooley had arthroscopic surgery to repair his meniscus soon after last season ended. In the spring, he believed his recovery was on the proper course. But progress halted in June when he resumed his normal strength and conditioning routine.

When Cooley reflected on how his injury devolved to this point, he had no doubt about the genesis.

“I’m not blaming anybody, but I feel 100 percent that I’m a casualty for the season of the lockout,” he said. “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 agree with him 100 percent,” coach Mike Shanahan said.

Cooley hired Harrison Bernstein, a former Redskins assistant strength and conditioning coach, in June to help his rehab, but it was too late.

Now he must look ahead.

“The thing I remember the most is going to the Super Bowl and watching the Saints run out of the tunnel,” he said. “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.”

He won’t go on this weekend’s road trip because he doesn’t want to have to walk around Toronto on crutches, but he plans on attending all of Washington’s other road games.

And if the Redskins happen to make it to the Super Bowl? Cooley smiled.

“I told Mike if we get to the NFC championship and we get to the Super Bowl, I’m going to come into his office and choke him,” he joked.

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