In somewhat stunning news Tuesday, wide receiver Riley Cooper returned to Eagles training camp after just four days away from the team. But the wideout, who met with coach Chip Kelly and talked with teammates on Tuesday, seemed remorseful when he spoke about the incident featuring him using a racial slur on video at a Kenny Chesney concert.
Cooper went so far as to say he'll live with the incident "every day for the rest of my life."
"It's going to be tough. No doubt it's going to be tough," Cooper said. "I'm going to live with this every day for the rest of my life."
Cooper talked repeatedly the "responsibility to behave on and off the field" in the NFL as well as the "severity" of the incident at the Chesney concert.
"We just talked about this situation and how big this is," Cooper said. "I realize that. I realize how many people I hurt, how many families I hurt and how many kids I hurt. That's what we walked about -- the severity."
As for Cooper's absence, the wideout declined to speak about the specifics of his counseling (although he did, oddly, say he never touched on the need to avoid alcohol moving forward) but continually said how important getting back on the field was for him.
"I just went out and seeked help. I talked with my family and seeked help -- I'm going to keep that with me and the others that are helping out, but it went well," Cooper said. "It took a few days. It's been a tough ride. I talked to Chip last night and this morning and he asked me 'How do you feel? Are you ready to come back?' and I said 'Absolutely, I love being out there on the field, I love being out there with my guys.'"
How was it out there? Cooper said it was "great" particularly getting support from teammates (Jason Avant chest-bumped him after a score) during actual football action.
"To be honest, it felt good. It felt great. I love being out there on the field playing football," Cooper said. "That's what I do and that's what I love. So it felt good to be out there with the guys, catching, running and making some plays.
Making plays was secondary in his coach's mind -- Kelly was more concerned that Cooper was able to talk with his teammates and interact with them on the field and, presumably, try to move forward from this incident.
"My concern wasn't how he practiced," Kelly said. "It was him with the team himself and a chance to make sure he gets to talk to every guy so they understand how he felt, what he did and understand that he's truly sorry for what he did. We'll look at the film and correct all those other things but that wasn't really my concern."
Getting the team on the same page is critical for Kelly. Even if there are folks who don't agree with his decision to bring Cooper back, it's a far better move than kicking him to the curb and will ultimately do more good than bad if he's able to re-integrate Cooper into the locker room.
That seems to be going well, as Kelly said (and Cooper confirmed) that the wideout spoke with every single teammate individually. Cooper indicated that the majority of his teammates supported his return.
"I went in and talked to everybody and everyone seemed to support [me]," Cooper said.
Multiple teammates speaking after Cooper's session with the media seemed to confirm that. DeMeco Ryans (as you can see above) welcomed Cooper back and said it was critical for the team to move forward.
"I just said 'What's up man? Good to have you back out here,'" Ryans said. "I know Riley out of this situation surely felt like an outcast -- and we have to bring him back in as our teammate and as our brother and resolve this issue and move forward. We can't have any ill feelings lingering throughout this season."
That is the key for getting Cooper back into the flow of the locker room and, most importantly, into the trust of his teammates. If they're not on board with supporting Cooper's racial rehabilitation then he's not going to last in Philadelphia.
It's impossible to assume that he's "fixed" after four days -- just like it's difficult to believe he used that word for the first time ever on the now-infamous video -- but it's not hard to picture Cooper as a contrite teammate and friend.
He's no victim, for sure, and sympathy will still be hard to come by for the wideout. But he's taken the right measures, the only measures, in trying to rectify his mistake and appears genuinely remorseful. That's about all you can ask for someone in his situation trying to move forward.