Chris Cooley, the longest-tenured player on the Washington Redskins and easily the team’s most colourful character, was saying goodbye.
"I appreciate everything," Cooley said with a sniffle, his voice starting to waver. "I’m sorry. I’m a baby. I appreciate everything you guys have done for me. I guess, finally, just to say thank you to our fans. It’s been great. Thank you."
The Redskins released their two-time Pro Bowl tight end Tuesday, a few hours after creating some special teams chaos of their own by cutting kicker Graham Gano and replacing him with Billy Cundiff.
Talk of field goal percentages quickly gave way to the stunning realization that No. 47 will no longer occupy his customary space near the back corner of the locker room.
"He helped me get comfortable with this team & this offense. He is a legend in my mind and will be missed. Thank You Chris Cooley," tweeted rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III — and he’s only known Cooley a few months.
'I’m sorry. I’m a baby. I appreciate everything you guys have done for me.'—Chris Cooley
Coach Mike Shanahan said the decision came down to a matter of playing time. Fred Davis, who had a breakout year in 2011, has emerged as the new starting tight end, relegating Cooley, a former Utah State standout, to utility duty as a backup at both fullback and tight end during preseason.
"He wants to start. He wants to play," Shanahan said. "And we’ll see if he gets that opportunity."
Shanahan said Cooley’s release wasn’t about health or money. Cooley appeared in only five games last season after trying to play before sufficiently recovering from offseason left knee surgery.
"I thought he practiced well, he played well [in preseason], and I think he’s got an opportunity to start in the National Football League," Shanahan said. "I think he’s healthy."
Cooley, whose Pro Bowl seasons came in 2007 and 2008, was also one of the most expensive players on the team, due $3.8 million US in salary this year and $3.85 million in
One day after he appeared to win the Redskins kicking job, Gano is out of work. His replacement is Cundiff, who spent two days unemployed after getting cut by the Baltimore Ravens.
Gano was released and Cundiff signed by the Redskins, who announced the move on Tuesday.
It was an abrupt development in the Redskins kicking carousel. Gano stood at this locker feeling excited and looking forward to the season Monday after his lone competition in training camp, Neil Rackers, was sent packing when the team made its first round of cuts.
But Gano's numbers have never been impressive. He has made 73.8 per cent of his field goal attempts since joining the Redskins late in the 2009 season, the second-worst percentage in the league over the last three seasons.
Gano, 25, missed 11 attempts in 2010, tied for most in the NFL. He had a league-high 10 misses last season, although five of those were blocked. He beat out Rackers without attempting a field goal in the Redskins' pre-season games, coming out ahead based on his performance during practice.
Cundiff's statistics are only marginally better. The 32-year-old kicker has a career field goal percentage of 76.7 with the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore. He joined the Ravens during the 2009 season and went to the Pro Bowl in 2010, going 26 for 29, but last season he missed a potential game-tying, 32-yarder against the New England Patriots in the waning seconds of the AFC title game.
Cundiff also has limited range. He is 5 for 19 over his career from 50-plus yards, including just 1 for 6 last season. He was cut Sunday by the Ravens, who opted to go with rookie Justin Tucker.