The biggest news out of a week's worth of training camp, outside the unfortunate rash of ACL injuries, has been the incident involving Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper , who has sparked controversy for making a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert.
Since then, Cooper has been excused from all of the Eagles' team activities during training camp to focus on "racial counseling." Cooper's future with both the Eagles and the NFL is in question as a result of his actions, as the possibility of locker room division becomes imminent in Philadelphia, with quarterback Michael Vick on the side of forgiveness , while running back Lesean McCoy states that Cooper has lost his trust and respect.
The statements made by Cooper, who has since issued an apology, are ones that no one should ever have to hear directed towards them, and while Cooper has already faced an undisclosed fine from the Eagles, the feeling may be that more may soon be coming. First-year head coach Chip Kelly is faced with a difficult situation and a suddenly fragile, sensitive locker room on a controversial subject. And in a league where the majority of the athletes are African American, the ground is quickly shrinking beneath Cooper's feet.
Could this be enough to end the receiver's career with not only the Eagles, but the NFL as well?
Coming into 2013, the fourth year veteran has 46 career receptions for 679 yards and five touchdowns. While those aren't career breaking numbers, Cooper's place at the top of the roster may be the primary reason the Eagles haven't released him. His position near the top of the roster is due to the season-ending ACL injury suffered by receiver Jeremy Maclin. Otherwise, he may have already been gone by now. The Eagles could choose to keep Cooper moving forward, but they are taking their time before making a decision on the now controversial receiver.
But is the risk of keeping him worth the reward? A split locker room and hostility created amongst players on a team transitioning to a first-year head coach with his first ever NFL team? While Cooper's comments were completely out of line and horribly offensive to the African American population, let's remember that many weren't sure that Michael Vick had a career coming out of prison for dog fighting charges. There were obvious trust issues surrounding the former troubled quarterback after his release from prison. But the city of Philadelphia gave him a second chance, and he didn't squander it. Now he is a well respected voice and leader both in and out of the locker room, and the fact that he is on the side of forgiveness should speak volumes. The road to recovery will take more than a fine and racial counseling. It will take time, a good amount of time, for Cooper to earn the trust of his teammates and the greater NFL back. And if there's someone who knows about earning trust back, it's Vick.
And while I'm not saying Cooper will in no way, shape or form have the kind of post-controversial impact that Vick did, nor am I neither completely condemning or defending him, all angles of this must be considered at both ends of the spectrum. And the Eagles have made the right moves by not immediately jumping the gun, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made the right moves by not doing the same.
Maybe that's all Cooper needs. A second chance. But for now, his fate with the Eagles, and possibly his NFL career, could lie in the hands of Kelly and the rest of the Eagles brass.