Riley Cooper returned to Eagles practice yesterday, four days after being excused from camp in the wake of a video showing him angrily using a racial slur. Where did Cooper go? What did he do? And how did his teammates handle his return? All very good questions.
Cooper was less than forthcoming when asked how he spent his unscheduled break. Early reports last week had him leaving to seek counseling, but that appears to have been mentioned only in the Eagles' initial statement. Instead, upon his return, both Cooper and Chip Kelly both said he had sought "assistance" or "help."
One Inquirer columnist doesn't believe Cooper got professional counseling at all. From his limited comments on his exodus, Cooper indicated he went back to Florida to spend time with his parents. He wouldn't specify anyone else he spoke to, though he did say he did not receive counseling for alcohol.
"I went out and seeked help," Cooper said. "I talked to my family and seeked some help. But I'm going to keep that between me and the others that are helping me out. It went well."
Whether or not Cooper got professional counseling, it probably doesn't matter except from a PR standpoint (the long weekend off was the Eagles' opportunity to see if this would blow over, and it appears to have). A man who goes to a concert and drinks doesn't automatically have an alcohol problem. And sensitivity training, which is the conclusion that everyone jumped to, could only serve to teach Cooper that people get upset when you call a black person a "nigger." If the reaction to his comments didn't prove that to him, no amount of counseling would.
From a pure football point of view, Cooper reportedly looked good yesterday. He caught three touchdowns in 11-on-11 drills. With Arrelious Benn set to miss the season with a torn ACL, the Eagles need Cooper on the roster, if only to save themselves from having Jason Avant as a WR2.
Cooper says he spoke with each and every one of his teammates individually (given the 90-man camp roster, no mean feat), and didn't presume to ask for forgiveness.
"I told them, 'I don't want you to forgive me, because that puts the burden on you. I want it all on me.' I told them that, and I told 'em I apologize."