Ashburn, Va. • Chris Cooley is spending his victory lap in Washington the same way he spent the first eight seasons cracking wise, and lending a helping hand.
His release near the conclusion of the preseason after slipping on the tight end totem pole was a tearful one. And his comeback after being signed to help replace the injured Fred Davis has Cooley and teammates beaming.
"It's a thrill," he says. "It's an honor to be here again. And it's a huge opportunity for me to play for the team that I love."
As the former Utah State star put it, his Monday return to Redskins Camp was something like a Dashboard Confessional song "Hands Down."
"Hands down this is the best day I can ever remember, I'll always remember the sound of the stereo, the dim of the soft lights, the scent of your hair that you twirled in your fingers, and the time on the clock when we realized it's so late, and this walk that we shared together."
Yes, the most productive tight end in team history enjoys the occasional Dashboard Confessional song, along with a good rom-com and a long cry. He also enjoys the occasional beer, and it's true he tried to have a case of cold ones negotiated into his new contract.
No luck there. But Cooley, 30, did get his job back after hiring an agent, testing the free agent market, and deciding after "two or three weeks" that he wanted only to be a Redskin again. "I've had a good career. I don't have anything that I have to prove anything," he says. "I didn't go home and think, 'My life's done.' I went home and thought, 'There's an end in football, and clearly it's not far for me,' though I didn't want it to end. I decided after a while that I only wanted to be here. And if not here, I'll do something else in the area."
Not just yet. While Cooley figures to have plenty of media opportunities as one of the area's favorite athletes, the Redskins needed him back on the roster when Davis went down with an Achilles tear in Sunday's loss to the Giants. Coach Mike Shanahan determined active tight ends Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul needed a supplement.
That's how rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III got back the "Cool-man," as he likes to call him. "I've always wanted to throw a pass to him," Griffin says. "I completed one to him in the preseason but that doesn't count, so hopefully we can get one here in this next game. But he's coming back to do his job that involves blocking and doing a lot of other things."
It's unclear just how much the Cool-man will play Sunday at Pittsburgh. He won't start, though he did practice all week and was likely the only free agent the Redskins wouldn't need to worry about acclimating to the playbook.
So the obvious question becomes, is Cooley physically ready? He's spent the week staying long after practices to run routes for any combination of Washington's three quarterbacks, but admits, in typical Cooley fashion, that he wasn't necessarily slaving in the weight room during the layoff.
His workout regimen?
"I don't love lifting weights," he says. "I'm fortunate that I've always been strong. But I stayed in shape because I knew towards November that I was going to get a chance to play, because it's the NFL and people get hurt, and it would be up to me to decide if I wanted to or not."
If Cooley doesn't immediately provide an impact on gameday, his greatest contributions will come on weekdays at Redskins Park.
He's something of a tutor to Griffin and fellow rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins, as well as tight ends Paulsen, Paul and Deangelo Peterson.
"I ask him questions all the time, and not just about football or the game plan this week," Cousins says. "I'm asking him questions about finances, life, socially. Anything involving life in the NFL. It's made a big difference in my rookie year."
Life, football, finances, but not music choices. Thank goodness.