Three days ago, receiver Riley Cooper left the Eagles. While no timetable has been established for his return, Peter King of TheMMQB.com believes/reports that, eventually, Cooper will be back.
But Kings adds a caveat that could becomes significant in this case — “unless the situation becomes powerfully untenable in the locker room.”
It arguably already reached that point on Thursday, a day after the latest installment of Gators Gone Wild landed on America’s collective computer screen. When running back LeSean McCoy gave to the media an honest assessment of his feelings (hey, Chip Kelly said they should always tell the truth, right?), the mood turned dramatically. Within a day, Cooper was gone.
King compares Cooper’s case to Kelly’s handling of LeGarrette Blount’s sucker punch of an opponent from the first game of the 2009 season. Banned indefinitely, Blount eventually got a second chance from Kelly.
The last time Kelly dealt with an issue like this, he received advice from former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy. Kelly, who coached Dungy’s son, Eric, at Oregon, has sought out Dungy again.
“I told [Kelly] to trust his instincts,’’ Dungy told King. “He can use this as a teaching moment, and his decision could pull this team together.’’
The present situation presents two different realities to Kelly: (1) from a football standpoint, Cooper isn’t as valuable to the cause as Blount was; and (2) Blount’s case didn’t present a threat to the stability of the locker room.
As we heard from the outset of Cooper’s exit from the team, if the Eagles believe they can replace his expected production with other receivers, he won’t be back. If they don’t believe they can, he will.
It could be that Kelly already has decided that he needs Cooper, and that the challenge now becomes finding a way to ease him back in to the fold. Maybe that means having someone like Dungy talk directly to players like McCoy, who aren’t inclined to forgive or forget what Cooper said, or to chalk it up to Cooper being so liquored up that, as King points out, Cooper told friends that he doesn’t remember saying what he said.
King says he’s not sure he believes Cooper was too drunk to recall what he said. If Cooper’s teammates don’t believe it, or if they have a harder time reconciling Cooper’s reaction after the video was released with the possibility that he knew about the video before it showed up on the Internet, it could be more likely that the “situation becomes powerfully untenable in the locker room.”