Former Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley announced in July he was hoping to come back to the NFL, preferably with the Redskins. Cooley played for the Redskins from 2004 to 2012, catching 429 passes, scoring 33 touchdowns and making the Pro Bowl twice. Cooley, a fan favorite, has spent the last two seasons working as a sports talk show host on ESPN 980 radio.
After Redskins backup tight ends Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul were lost for the year during the preseason because of injuries, talk of Cooley’s potential comeback increased. Although the Redskins decided not to sign Cooley, the former Pro Bowl tight end still hopes to catch on with another NFL team.
Cooley talked about his attempt to come back to the NFL Thursday with atombash.com.
Mike Frandsen, atombash.com: Are you still looking to catch on with other teams after the Redskins decided not to sign you?
Cooley: Yeah, absolutely. When I originally thought about coming back to play, my obvious hope was that if I had an opportunity, it would be to play for the Redskins. That’s why I didn’t play a couple of years earlier.
I started getting in really good shape. I started running. I can play, and I watch so much football because of what I do now and I’m so involved in the game and it’s such a great game.
I just thought I’ll really regret not giving it my best shot to play. And if ultimately my best shot is to try really hard and no one signs me then at least I’ll know, hey look at least I still gave it my best shot to play. But I was realistic that it probably wasn’t going to be in training camp with anybody. I was realistic that it probably wasn’t going to be with the Redskins.
Before any of this happened with the tight ends with the Redskins I just though let’s give it a go. Obviously I’m disappointed that it isn’t here and it isn’t right now, but they have a philosophy and an approach to what they want to do this season and if it’s not me it’s not me.
atombash.com: Would the Redskins be better with you at third tight end than with one of the current backups?
Cooley: My opinion is absolutely going to be yes but that’s to be seen. I still think they’re going to make more moves and sign somebody else. They made the trade for (Derek) Carrier. I think they’re probably waiting for someone else to be released. That ultimately is where my comeback lies.
With any other team, there aren’t a lot of guys in free agency. If there’s anyone available for someone to pick up and sign and play at a serviceable level, it’s unrealistic. There’s probably, as I go through the league and rosters, three, possibly four guys that can be released in the next two weeks of cuts.
I just want an opportunity to play the game that I love.
atombash.com: How would you feel about going to another team besides the Redskins?
Cooley: At this point you have to consider any option and I don’t want to put out there that it wouldn’t mean as much to me to win for someone else, because it probably ultimately would. I’ll never forget this – I went to the Super Bowl when the Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears in Miami. I watched them run through the tunnel and if I could do that as a Redskin, that would have been the greatest experience and that’s what was left on the table with my career.
And maybe it’s possible, maybe it’s not at this point. I’m just competitive. It’s fun, so yeah you’d have to consider every option. I can’t say that it would mean the same as it would if I were running out as a Redskin, but it’s still important to me – important enough for me to really try.
atombash.com: Are there any other teams that you’ve been in contact with?
Cooley: Yeah. I’ve talked to six or seven teams so far. The basic communication point is we don’t like our situation right now, the position. We’ll see what we have moving forward, but are you serious? A lot of the calls are, we would actually consider this, but is this just for fun, is this a joke? I think to some extent, the media got spun as this was a negotiation strategy for the radio.
My deal was already done when I started doing this. It was 100 percent serious. And so teams ask that. And then the other question that a lot of teams ask is are you doing this because you just need money? Absolutely not, I’ll show anyone my tax return from last year if they’re seriously concerned about that.
atombash.com: What is it that you miss most about the game?
Cooley: I love the game and I miss the game. And I really truly do believe that I can play it. And I really do believe I’ll be letting myself down if I don’t take a chance and play it. So I know that I’ll be criticized for saying that I think I can. If I don’t try, then I won’t get it.
And the highs of it, the adrenaline from it, the competitive aspect of it, the intelligence of the preparation and the work is just so great to me that it outweighs anything else. And if I can do it, it’ll be amazing, and you know what, if I can’t, then I’m comfortable with that too. But I’ve got to give it everything I have.
atombash.com: Why do you want to come back so much to the Redskins as opposed to any other team?
Cooley: The Redskins have given me every opportunity to be successful in my career. And it has been not just the player aspect of the locker room. We’re like a big family. From ownership down, it has been like family to me. They’re my closest friends. It’s what means the most to me. And I’d like to be a part of that.
The chemistry of the team like we had in 2005. We were just all so close and we knew we could win games and we all played for each other. That was incredible and it was amazing that you had that year and it’s so hard to ever get back again. Being part of a group of guys like Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, knowing that they believe in you.
Those inside things meant so much to me. Obviously the plays that I made on the field. It feels really good to work so hard and achieve the success that you’ve worked for. There’s a lot of different plays that I feel that way about.
atombash.com: How long have you been training for the comeback? What kind of workouts have you been doing?
Cooley: So I started working out in January just because I didn’t feel good about myself and after a long season of traveling and not playing and working out it’s easy to not feel good about yourself. I started getting in pretty good shape into the spring. I started running quite a bit, more than just lifting. And I felt great.
So it has now been about seven months without interrupted breaks and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m not going to fall into the cliche of football players saying I’m in the best shape of my life. I don’t know why people even say that. I know I’m in good enough shape to play the game of football.
As far as lifting goes, I try to work as fast as I can as I work through things, so like yesterday I did power cleans. I put 335 pounds on the power cleans bar. I did one every 30 seconds for 12. I then did squats, and I did a set of 8 squats. And then I did a set of 8 box jumps. And then on a count start running. I do upper stuff too.
I started running, and I started because I’m just jogging, and then I started getting into some conditioning stuff, like doing 15 110s with 30 seconds in between. And at the point I’m at now, I feel like I need to get myself ready without having preseason plays to play a drive.
I pretty much set up a fake drive for myself and usually I’ll have a buddy come through and I’ll run a route, jog back, wait 15 seconds like I was in a huddle, hit a blocking sled for five yards, wait 15 seconds, run another route, and try to do like five to six eight to 12 play drives of that.
I bench pressed 225 the other day just for fun, 24 times though so I was pleased with that. I honestly haven’t run a 40-yard dash and I don’t expect that in a workout I would have to run a 40-yard dash. I weighed 245 yesterday.
atombash.com: Has being on the radio and doing all the film studying given you a better perspective for the game?
Cooley: Yeah, I would say that yes it has. My want and desire for understanding the game really came with about three years left in my career when Sean McVay came in as the tight ends coach and just knew everything about the offense and knew everything about what everyone was doing and that blew me away. And I didn’t want Sean McVay to know more than me so I just started picking up every single thing and every position.
I learned our entire defense and I learned the quarterback to read, and I learned anything that I could talk to Sean about to try to know more, and so then that just translated to me wanting to watch film, me knowing that film would help me understand how people play. I really didn’t watch that much as a player, but during the season the last couple of years, I spend three or four hours a day watching films because I like it.