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Cooley wants to get healthy and keep playing

The Sports Xchange

--From his debut in the 2004 opener as a third-round draft choice out of Utah State all the way through Week 7 of 2009, tight end Chris Cooley never missed a game, started all but seven and made two Pro Bowls while catching 343 passes for 3,789 yards and 30 touchdowns.

However, Cooley suffered a season-ending broken leg on Oct. 26, 2009 against Philadelphia. He returned to catch 77 balls for 849 yards (tying his franchise record by a tight end) in 2010 but finished the season with a nagging knee injury that wasn't properly taken care of during the lockout and which wound up making him a shadow of his self in 2011. Cooley caught just eight passes for 65 yards in five games before the knee and a broken finger ended his season.

"(Shutting it down) was the best option for me at the time," Cooley said as the players cleaned out their lockers on Monday. "It was frustrating because I felt healthy enough to play towards the end of the year. It's been tough for me because I haven't been able to play or produce for our team in what feels like forever. I'm excited about starting over and moving forward. I think a fresh start is probably good for everyone right now."

Although he has missed the better part of two of the past three seasons, will be 30 in July, has a $3.8 million base salary for 2011 and backup Fred Davis emerged in a major way in 2011 before being suspended for failed drug tests, Cooley doesn't believe his status with the Redskins is at all in jeopardy.

"I have no doubt that I'll be here," Cooley said. "I'm excited to continue to be a part of this team and continue to play the game that I love. I'm not worried at all about playing my best football and I'm not worried about proving anything to anyone. I know I'm a good player. I'm going to do everything that I can to come out and play well for the team. There's not a chip on my shoulder. I want to be productive. I want to win games and have fun. I'm very healthy right now."

--Tim Hightower, the starting running back until he tore his left ACL on Oct. 23 at Carolina, has played in just six games for the Redskins. However, the pending free agent, an Alexandria, Va. native very much wants to stay put now that he's back home after playing his first three seasons in Arizona.

"I love this organization," said the 25-year-old Hightower. "I didn't realize exactly how much it would mean coming back here and having a chance to play here, being around your family and the fans and going places around this city. It was special for me and I would like to play here for a long time. It would mean a lot for me to be back here."

Hightower said the fine play of rookie running backs Roy Helu (three 100-yard games in five starts) and Evan Royster (100-yard games in both of his starts) after he was hurt doesn't change his outlook.

"I'm not concerned," Hightower said. "I'm not Evan. I'm not Roy and they're not me. I say that with no disrespect. They've done an excellent job. But I know who I am. I know my capabilities and what I bring to the football team."

As for when or if he might re-sign with the Redskins, Hightower said, "It wouldn't be right for me to be talking contract right now. My knee's not where it needs to be. When all that rehab stuff is done, the contract will take care of itself. I know (by the time) the season starts, I'll be 100 percent full speed."

--Adam Carriker set a career-high with 5.5 sacks in 2011 while helping the Redskins rise from 31st to 13th in yards allowed. And after missing all of 2009 in St. Louis following shoulder surgery, the 27-year-old defensive end played in every game the last two seasons for Washington while starting all but one.

The Redskins want pending free agent Carriker to return, but second-round draft pick Jarvis Jenkins, who was playing so well last summer before suffering a season-ending torn ACL in the third preseason game, could be in line to take his starting spot in 2012. But Carriker isn't worried about that, envisioning a three-man rotation at end with him, Jenkins and Stephen Bowen similar to the success that Pittsburgh has had in its 3-4 scheme with ends Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood.

"I feel like we got better on defense, but obviously our record (5-11) isn't where we want it to be," Carriker said. "Hopefully I proved myself to be a little more valuable than (being virtually given to the Redskins by the Rams on the eve of the 2010 draft). I think I played pretty well this year. I'd like stay here. We'll see if they call. We'll see if talks happen. If it's fair deal, that's great. If not, I'll test free agency and see what happens."

"It's always interesting for me. It's always exciting, the course we take during the offseason; who's going to be here and who we're going to bring in." -- TE Chris Cooley, second only to FB Mike Sellers with eight seasons in Washington on his resume.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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