- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2011

Tight end Chris Cooley has said for weeks that his ailing left knee would not prevent him from playing in the Washington Redskins’ season-opener against the New York Giants. Now that Sunday’s kickoff is almost upon us, Cooley isn’t saying for sure whether he’ll play.

The two-time Pro Bowler chose his words carefully when speaking with reporters Friday, remembering coach Mike Shanahan’s demand for withholding information about injuries.

“I’m getting better every day,” Cooley said.

Cooley is listed as questionable on the final injury report. He was limited in practice all week.

Sunday would be his first game since last season. He missed all four preseason games this summer.

“Everyone likes to play preseason or have a game or two, but I don’t think it’s a total necessity,” he said. “I definitely know what it takes to play at a high level in this game. I don’t think because I missed a couple preseason games I’m going to be nervous about what I’m capable of.”

Cooley on Friday stepped on the scale at Redskins Park and weighed 234 pounds. That’s 20 pounds lighter than he’s ever been during his seven-year pro career.

He always wanted to shed some weight, and his injury provided the opportunity. He was able to focus on eating healthily and exercising without worrying about having enough energy to practice.

Maintaining his strength was essential, and Cooley believes he did.

“It’s a huge benefit to me,” he said. “The responsibilities that the tight end has in the run blocking scheme area little bit different because of the zone blocking. It’s more about quickness and being able to get your hands on guys and be able to stay with guys.

“I think I’ll be completely fine in the run game. I think I’ll feel better when I’m running routes. I’m assuming I’ll have more endurance taking 20 pounds of weight off.”

As for his footspeed, Cooley cracked: “I’m a slow white guy, so we’ll see.”

Doughty a rarity among Redskins‘ defenders

Reed Doughty tried to list all the fellow safeties he has played with since joining the Redskins. There are the obvious ones — LaRon Landry and Sean Taylor — and some forgettable names such as Omar Stoutmire and Pierson Prioleau. He came up with nine names.

“That sounds like 25 years of guys,” he said. “It’s only been six.”

Doughty is an NFL survivor. He’ll start in place of the injured Landry on Sunday with a distinction he never thought he’d hold: He’s one of the three longest-tenured players on the Redskins‘ defense. Not bad for a sixth-round pick out of Northern Colorado.

He has endured because he relishes his role as a reserve that coaches trust to plug into the starting lineup at either free or strong safety. When he was a free agent during signing period in late July, he welcomed the Redskins‘ three-year offer despite knowing he’d be behind Landry on the depth chart.

“He will have longevity because of the way he prepares and works,” Shanahan said. “He’s very conscientious and a student of the game. He prepares for each game like he’s preparing for a Super Bowl. That’s why he’s been successful here and why he’ll be successful anywhere, even after football.”

Rookie DeJon Gomes is the only other true safety available for Sunday.

He caught coaches’ eyes by making plays around the line of scrimmage during preseason games. He’s comfortable in the box because he played some linebacker at Nebraska and because Redskins coaches in training camp stopped trying him as a cornerback.

“I don’t have so many reads of what position I’m at and then thinking about the play,” Gomes said.

Extra Points

• Linebacker London Fletcher on Sunday will play his 209th consecutive game. He and Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber will leave Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning behind on their iron man streaks. The three are tied for the most consecutive games played among active players, but Manning has been ruled out of the Colts’ opener with a neck injury.

“He’s a quarterback that doesn’t get hit much,” Fletcher said. “I expected him to break [Brett] Favre’s record [of 297].”

• At practice Friday, the Redskins hosted more than two dozen family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon.

• Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring), receiver Donté Stallworth (shoulder), return specialist Brandon Banks (knee) and running back Ryan Torain (left hand) are considered questionable for Sunday’s game.

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