PHILADELPHIA - New Eagles coach Chip Kelly is now faced with his first serious crisis.
He is challenged with finding a way to keep the locker room together in the wake of a video that went viral Wednesday showing wide receiver Riley Cooper making a racist remark during a Kenny Chesney concert on June 8 at Lincoln Financial Field.
"It's a definite concern," Kelly said after Thursday's practice. "Xs and Os really go out the window right now. This isn't something that can just be swept under the rug. It's going to take some time. I think the guys that know Riley and are a little bit closer to him, I think it may be a little easier for them. But there are also some guys who are still trying wrap their arms around it. This isn't a situation that's going to go away tomorrow and we certainly understand that."
"I know Riley made a heinous mistake. I was appalled by it. I was actually shocked by it because since I've been here since April, that's not the Riley Cooper I know. He accepted responsibility for it and he has to live with it, but I hope at some point in time we'll have a chance to move on from it, but right now I don't think it's going to be something that's going to go away very quickly."
Kelly said that he had urged the Eagles' position coaches to talk with their respective players about the situation.
Most of the players interviewed Wednesday and Thursday, including quarterback Michael Vick, wide receiver Jason Avant and center Jason Kelce - who was with Cooper at the concert - voiced their support for him.
Cooper apologized to his teammates late Wednesday.
"I know Riley is very sorry, very contrite about it," Avant said Thursday. "He can't undo the damage; I know he wishes he could. But you have to let it go because it will create an atmosphere of the whites in this corner or the blacks in this corner and we definitely don't want that as a team or as a society. The only way you can handle those types of things is release yourself by forgiveness.
"When things like that occur, you have to take that situation and compare it to all the other situations and you kind of get a glimpse of that person. So with that being said, I can't take that isolated incident and throw out all the other times that me and Riley have had over the years, him being a great teammate – especially just a couple days ago when Jeremy was hurt on the field, the first one over there – all those types of things. I'm not going to allow one isolated incident to determine his character for me. And I would that suggest that for everyone."
But others were not so quick to forgive and forget.
"I can't respect a guy like that," Eagles running back LeSean McCoy told Comcast Sportnet Thursday after practice. "You think you know somebody very well. But when you do something like that when you don't think there are any cameras around, you show who you really are."
Earlier Thursday, the Eagles announced that Cooper, who apologized to the coaches and players Wednesday, will be undergoing sensitivity training.