The Washington Redskins have released the longest-tenured player in the organization.
Fighting back tears, tight end Chris Cooley announced he was released after eight seasons with the team.
“This organization has changed my life,” Cooley said Tuesday. Former Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs selected him in the third-round of the 2004 draft out of Utah State, and Cooley quickly fell into favor with his teammates and the burgundy and gold fan base.
Mike Shanahan turned to the veteran upon his arrival in Washington, and Cooley, in turn, became a believer in the two-time Super Bowl winning coach’s philosophy.
The belief in Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen did not waiver and he continues to proclaim the Redskins organization is destined for great things under Shanahan.
“There’s really no hard feelings for me,” the 30-year-old tight end said. “I’ve had good talks with Bruce Allen. He’s been great. I’ve talked to all the coaches and it’s OK with me that they’re moving in the direction they’re moving.”
The gravity of Cooley’s release was not lost on Shanahan.
“We know how much Chris has meant to this organization, as well as this community,” the coach said.
A suspect knee and an injured thumb limited Cooley to just five games last season where he recorded a modest eight receptions for 65 yards. In his career, Cooley caught 428 passes for 4,703 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Cooley is confident that he can still be a starter in the NFL if he decides to sign with another team.
However, he’s in no rush to make a decision. Instead, the beloved tight end will take time to ponder his next move.
Perhaps his biggest obstacle will be coming to terms that moving on will mean having to put on another jersey.
“It’s something that I’ve never really had to imagine,” said Cooley.
Long before Cooley’s release the torch had been passed to Fred Davis, who received the team’s franchise tag and was named their 2011 Offensive Player of the Year despite a four-game drug suspension last season.
“Thank you to our fans,” a grateful Cooley said. “It’s been great.”