PHILADELPHIA - Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was back with the team Tuesday.
The 25-year-old returned just four days after leaving to undergo sensitivity training and counseling after uttering a racist slur that was captured on video during a Kenny Chesney concert on June 8.
"He told me last night that he was coming back today," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said after Tuesday's joint practice with the New England Patriots. "Riley wasn't suspended, so it wasn't like he had to pass certain criteria or needed verification before he could come back.
"We gave him time to seek outside assistance, and when he had the opportunity to go get that done, he called and said he wanted to come back. We talked and we both felt comfortable with him returning to the team.
"That being said, we know this isn't something you can just put in the backseat. We'll see what happens. We'll make sure we keep our eyes and ears open and continue to monitor the situation. This is an ongoing process. It's not something where you can just say it's over."
Cooper would not divulge what type of counseling he received, but he did meet with his family in Florida.
He said again Tuesday that they were "extremely, extremely disappointed" in him upon learning of the video. It first aired on the web site CrossingBroad.com last Wednesday.
Cooper, accompanied by center Jason Kelce and several friends, got into an altercation with a black security guard and shouted the racial insult before Kelce and others pulled him away.
"My family has had a tough, tough time dealing with this, and it's been a pretty rough road for me," Cooper said. "That's not how I was raised. I've come to realize that when you are in the NFL, you have a responsibility to behave on and off the field."
Upon arriving at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday morning, Cooper said he met with every teammate "face to face."
During the meetings, Cooper said he again apologized in an effort to be welcomed back in the locker room.
"I told them that, 'I don't want you to forgive me,' " Cooper said. "That puts the burden on them and I want the burden on me. This is something I have to live with every day. I just ask that people don't judge me on the past, but more on my actions in the future."
There appeared to be no tension or ill will toward him on the part of his teammates or the Patriots during Tuesday's workout.
The 6-foot-2, 222-pounder jogged onto the field shortly after 12:30 p.m. and immediately exchanged hugs with Eagles middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and wide receiver Jason Avant. None of the Patriots defensive backs retaliated against him during the one-on-one, seven-on-seven or full-team drills.
"As far as we're concerned, it's over with," said safety Patrick Chung, who said he had not yet spoken to Cooper. "Riley Cooper is here, he's our teammate and we're ready to move forward. He had a very good practice today and we're going to need him this season."
Cooper, who is entering his fourth season with the team, is expected to replace injured Jeremy Maclin as a starting wide receiver. Maclin will miss the entire year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a practice 10 days ago.
Cooper dominated the Patriots' secondary during Tuesday's live scrimmage. Cooper scored a touchdown with a leaping, 30-yard catch on a pass from quarterback Michael Vick against Pats cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Then he came back a few plays later to beat double coverage and haul in another 30-yard TD pass from quarterback Nick Foles.
"It felt so good to be out there with my teammates again," Cooper said. "I love to play football. That's what I do. And it was great the way everybody supported me with the high-fives and chest-bumping. I sure hope that I'm here to stay."
Barring another incident, Cooper will likely be here for at least this season.
With a few exceptions, his teammates have been willing to accept his apologies and make him a part of the team again. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie indicated the same attitude in a statement Tuesday.
"I want to make this clear," Lurie said. "The words Riley Cooper used were totally unacceptable. His words may have been directed at one person, but they hurt everyone.
"Riley has apologized to the team and the community and has made a personal commitment to work hard to try and gain their trust and earn his position on the team."
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