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DP:It will take more than an injury to keep this Redskin off the field


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It will take more than an injury to keep this Redskin off the field

By JIM DUCIBELLA, The Virginian-Pilot

© August 20, 2004

ASHBURN, Va. — The puffy lip, bloody mouth and crimson-colored spit were clearly visible as Chris Cooley stood on the Washington Redskins sideline last Saturday night, helmet in hand.

“You ready to go?” coach Joe Gibbs asked Cooley, sauntering over.

It was a trick question. Gibbs wasn’t asking his rookie tight end if he was capable of continuing against the Carolina Panthers. He was telling him his night against the defending NFC champion wasn’t over.

Whether or not he understood that, Cooley gave Gibbs an abrupt “Yeah” and buckled his helmet back on.

It would be hard to determine which man got a bigger kick from the exchange, but both got what they wanted.

Something like that happens “and you kind of get a feeling for a guy’s character and what kind of a person he is,” Gibbs said.

“For me, it’s a pride thing,” Cooley explained. “I never miss a practice. I never sit out. I do everything I can to make sure I play. That’s the way I’ve always been.”

Even at 6-foot-3, 265 pounds, Cooley doesn’t come off looking like a tough guy. But few take the kind of Ironman approach to football the way the Redskins’ third-round pick does.

Last season at Utah State, someone stepped on Cooley’s foot in practice, breaking it. But Cooley wouldn’t let anyone X-ray his foot for two weeks, never missing a play. Instead, until trainers insisted, he played wearing a 1½-inch pad to cushion the injury.

Once the injury was discovered, doctors kept Cooley out for three weeks. Yet, he still finished as one of the nation’s top pass-catching tight ends, with 62 receptions for 732 yards and six touchdowns .

Before that, he competed through the usual assortment of injuries .

“I played every sport I could in high school,” Cooley said. “It’s always been my life, and I just can’t see any reason not to be on the field.”

Against the Panthers, Cooley made the most of his first extended pro appearance. He caught two passes for 36 yards, got high marks for his blocking and was a determined special-teams participant.

“I think he can do a lot of things for us,” Gibbs said. “I think he’s a playmaker and very smart.” His 24-yard catch helped the Redskins to a field goal. Cooley snuck into the secondary and was ignored by both the linebacker and safety.

Hauling in Mark Brunell’s pass, Cooley lumbered to the 16 before being caught. “I kept thinking the safety was going to come over and just slam me,” Cooley said. “But it never happened. It was amazing how well the whole thing worked out for me.”

And continues to do so.

Cooley is in one of those rare circumstances where everyone involved in competition for a position makes the roster. It’s a pretty safe bet that he, Brian Kozlowski and Mike Sellers all will figure in Gibbs’ plan come the regular season.

Cooley isn’t likely to enjoy much of a breaking-in period. The Redskins studied him extensively in college and knew that his strong hands and above-average running ability could make him a good fit for their offense.

They brought him to Redskin Park for a get-acquainted session before the draft and continued to be impressed. On draft day, they dealt with New Orleans to move into the third round and pluck Cooley before another team got him.

“I knew it would be a wonderful place for me to play,” Cooley said. “When the trade happened, no one had called me the entire day. Suddenly, I saw my name flash on TV and at that instant I got a call from the Redskins. All I could say was, 'Thank you.’ ” Reach Jim Ducibella at 446-2364 or at jim.ducibella@pilotonline.com

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I met the guy who wrote this article at Wegman's not too long ago. It was the day he wrote the piece on Chad Morton and I told him I liked it because if you open the WP or Times, you'll be reading an article on LaVar or Ramsey every time. Ever since then it's been different players over and over. :)

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Jim Ducibella was a staff writer for the Virginia Pilot for decades before he retired. He still writes free-lance articles for the paper for the Pilot about the Redskins. I have been reading his articles for a long time. On the whole, I find his stuff to be even-handed and insightful. He is not your average Dr. Z or Pastabelly.

:type: :read: :)

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