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Cooley Completes Career Comeback Sunday

Posted Dec 26, 2012

Redskins TE Chris Cooley caught his first pass in a year in a half last Sunday, against the same team whose violent collision ended his 2011 season on injured reserve.

With 13:10 remaining in last Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Chris Cooley lined up on the ride side of the line and ran an out-route past the first down marker.

His job was the same as it had been for years: get open, find the football, convert the third down and keep the drive alive.

Cutting past free safety Kurt Coleman, Cooley glanced back and saw the pass from Robert Griffin III. He hauled it in for the 429th reception of his career, tallying his 4,711th yard.

For one of the most-decorated tight ends over the last decade, this was nothing special. But for Cooley, it marked a long road back to the NFL.

In 2011, Cooley battled a lingering knee injury in training camp and chose to start the season rather than spending time on the physically unable to perform list (PUP).

Cooley played sparingly in the first four games, tallying just seven receptions for 66 yards, on track for his worst season statistically. 

That fate was sealed when a vicious hit by Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha left him on the turf at FedExField, clutching his broken right hand. Combined with his knee injury, the coaching staff elected to place him on injured reserve.

"It was unfortunate to me because I feel like this is a team that has an opportunity to win," he told the media at the time. "Even in the capacity that I was at, the opportunity to help this team win meant so much to me that I didn’t want to spend time out.

"I want to help the team, [but] I can’t hold them hostage."

Cooley remained a fixture around team facilities and rehabbed both injuries throughout the offseason, preparing for training camp 2012.  After weathering a heated position battle, the two sides elected to separate, as Cooley sought a starting position elsewhere.

Opportunity came knocking in Week 7, as starting tight end Fred Davis tore his Achilles tendon, landing on season-ending injured reserve. Cooley, who had been working out on his own in Loudoun County, was suddenly back in the mix.

"I thought a lot about playing other places, but I didn’t really like the idea of moving, and making that change at this point of my life,” Cooley admitted after signing with the Redskins. “I feel very fortunate that I didn’t go play somewhere else, because this is the opportunity that I wanted."

The team is 6-2 with Cooley back in the lineup, lending his leadership and blocking skills to a tight end unit that also includes Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul.

It was not until Sunday, 26 Redskins games after his career-threatening injury, that Cooley finally got to catch a pass in regular season action.

"It is not a big deal to make a catch but after being out some this season, this one felt good," he said in the locker room after the game. "It is great for me to be out on the field, and I was able to get out there and make some good blocks, to help the offense. 

"I was happy to get a first down for us on a play and just want us all to continue to play well."

Cooley praised his teammates for their composure during the six-game winning streak, noting that mindset has been at least as important as physical talent.

“There are so many great guys on this team and it really feels great to be back and playing with them," he said. "The guys work so hard at practice and in games to get better. I have loved the six-game winning streak and it is so fun to be around such a great locker room."

Cooley saved special praise for rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who he called the NFL's Most Valuable Player.

"I think this team, and all of D.C., believe that Griffin is the MVP of this season," Cooley said. "He has had a great year with some of the other first year quarterbacks out there and definitely gets my vote."

Heading into the final game of the season, Cooley said he looks to contribute in any way that earns the Redskins a win and a playoff berth.

"I think the [Cowboys] game next week is great for the NFL as well as the rivalry, because of the history between both of the teams," he said. "It's two great franchises playing hard to beat one another and that is good stuff.

"These are two teams that have given themselves a chance to fight to get into the playoffs and will be a lot of fun."

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