PHILADELPHIA - When the Eagles took the field at the NovaCare Complex for training camp practice Friday, wide receiver Riley Cooper was not among them.
The Eagles announced before practice that Cooper has been excused from all team activities while undergoing sensitivity training and other counseling after a video surfaced this week that showed him uttering a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert on June 8.
"As we have said, Riley Cooper will be seeking counseling and we have excused him from all team activities," the Eagles said in a statement. "This is all new territory and we are going to evaluate this timetable every step of the way. He will meet with professionals provided by the Eagles during this period of time to better help him understand how his words have hurt so many, including his teammates."
Cooper, 25, came under fire Wednesday when the website CrossingBroad.com posted a video in which he shouted a racial slur during a confrontation with a security guard at Lincoln Financial Field. Eagles coach Chip Kelly and center Jason Kelce also were at the concert - Kelce can be seen in the video pulling Cooper away from the argument - but neither Kelce nor Kelly heard what Cooper said.
Cooper, who is in his fourth season with the Eagles, apologized to his teammates, coaches, owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman on Wednesday. The team fined him an undisclosed amount and agreed with him that he needed to seek professional help. He was not suspended.
"The last few days have been incredibly difficult for me," Cooper said in a statement Friday. "My actions were inexcusable. The more I think about what I did, the more disgusted I get. I keep trying to figure out how I could have said something so repulsive, and what I can do to make things better.
"Right now, I think it's important for me to take some time to reflect on this situation. The organization and my teammates have been extremely supportive, but I also realize that there are people who will have a tough time forgiving me for what I've done. The best thing for me, and for the team, is to step away for a period of time.
"During this time I'm going to be speaking with a variety of professionals to help me better understand how I could have done something that was so offensive, and how I can start the healing process for everyone. As long as it takes, and whatever I have to do, I'm going to try to make this right."
Kelly indicated after practice Friday that the team didn't consider releasing Cooper and that he will have a place on the team when he returns from treatment.
There was no timetable for his return, but he will almost certainly miss Monday's open practice at Lincoln Financial Field, the joint practices with New England at the NovaCare Complex next Tuesday and Wednesday, and the first preseason game against the Patriots next Friday.
"There was never a question of cutting Riley," Kelly said. "His status with us is not in question. We care about Riley. We are not going to just kick him to the street. This is not a football issue and it's not a roster issue. Riley needs help and he's going to get help."
Kelly's concern for Cooper was one of the reasons he was at practice Thursday. Kelly also explained that they needed a day or two in order to finalize the plans for treatment at an undisclosed location.
"I thought it was important for him to be here yesterday," Kelly said. "I didn't want him sitting at home. I was concerned about Riley, and he needed to be around us."
Cooper spoke to the team before Thursday's practice inside their fieldhouse, but few players heard his comments due to the noise of the giant ceiling fans.
New Eagles cornerback Cary Williams was among the players who said Friday that he forgave Cooper and would be able to play with him this season but that he would like to hear from Cooper again about the incident.
"There's still an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed," Williams said. "This is a great team and we can move on from this, but we have to have an open forum with the accuser there so he can hear the negatives and the positives. For us to be able to move on, that needs to happen.
The Eagles held a team meeting without Cooper on Friday before practice.
Several players, including wide receivers Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin - one of Cooper's best friends on the team - long-snapper Jon Dorenbos and linebacker DeMeco Ryans spoke to their teammates.
"The tone of the meeting was the way it was supposed to be," quarterback Michael Vick said. "We understand it's going to take some time to deal with everything, but the most important thing for us right now is to focus on football. That's what it's all about. Hopefully, Riley will get the help he needs and come back with a different mindset. He's a great player with a lot of potential."
The 6-foot-3, 222-pounder was the leading contender to replace the injured Maclin in the starting lineup with DeSean Jackson. Maclin will miss the entire season after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament during a practice last week.
When the first-team offense took the field for Friday's practice, second-year veteran Damaris Johnson was in Cooper's spot. Jackson was the other wide receiver, Avant the slot receiver.
Without Cooper and Maclin, they are very thin at that position. Avant, Jackson and Johnson are the only healthy players with much experience. Arrelious Benn, obtained in a trade from Tampa Bay, has been sidelined for most of camp with a strained hamstring.
But Kelly insisted that he wasn't much interested in depth charts, especially in the wake of this controversy.
"When you're young you always hear that 'sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,' " Kelly said. "That's not true. Whether it is a racist comment, sexist comment or whatever, players have to learn to watch what they say because those names can hurt."
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