As soon as the Washington Redskins arrived home from a 27-23 loss at the New York Giants, coach Mike Shanahan phoned out-of-work tight end Chris Cooley to see whether he was fit enough to replace Robert Griffin III’s top target, an injured Fred Davis.
Cooley assured Shanahan he was.
”I wasn’t at home doing squats and power cleans and listening to `Rocky’ music,” Cooley said Monday on a conference call with reporters, ”but at the same time, I’m in good shape.”
That was good enough for Shanahan. Cooley passed a physical exam and signed a contract to rejoin the Redskins, who put Davis on injured reserve with a ruptured left Achilles tendon a day after he was hurt in the first quarter Sunday.
The 30-year-old Cooley was released in August; injuries limited him to eight receptions and five games last season. He is a two-time Pro Bowl pick with 428 career catches, a franchise record for a tight end, over eight years in the NFL, all with the Redskins.
”I trust Chris. If he says he’s in good shape, he’s in good shape,” Shanahan said. ”So hopefully he can help us this next week.”
The Redskins (3-4) play on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) on Sunday, and Shanahan will be hoping to avoid the sorts of mistakes that hurt his team against NFC East rival New York and undid all the positives – which mainly were thanks to rookie quarterback Griffin.
There were the Redskins’ four second-half turnovers, one fewer than the five total they had committed in 13 previous halves all season.
The seven penalties, more than twice as many as the Giants, including an illegal shift call on Davis that wiped out what would have been a 35-yard touchdown pass from Griffin to Joshua Morgan.
And, of course, the poor secondary play that has been a problem all season for Washington, perhaps never worse than on Eli Manning’s 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz against planned-but-poorly-executed double coverage with less than 1 1/2 minutes left in the game. That score came less than 20 seconds after Griffin put the Redskins ahead by lofting a picture-perfect 30-yard TD toss to Santana Moss, capping a drive that featured a fourth-down escape by the man known as RG3.
”Everybody’s sick about it,” Shanahan said about the long TD from Manning to Cruz.
”It negates all the good things,” the coach added.
Those included edges in time of possession, first downs, total net yards, and yards rushing. Griffin himself outgained the Giants on the ground, 89 yards to 64.
Already having played four of seven games without the player who was supposed to be his leading wideout, Pierre Garcon (right foot injury), Griffin now must go the rest of the season without Davis, who leads the Redskins with 24 catches and 325 yards receiving.
”Losing Fred is huge. He’s a gamer,” Griffin said. ”He will be missed.”
Davis will have surgery Tuesday and is expected to need five to six months to recover, Shanahan said.
Before adding Cooley, the Redskins were left with Niles Paul, a converted wide receiver, and Logan Paulsen at tight end. That pair has a combined nine catches for 141 yards and zero touchdowns this season.
”He knows this offense better than anybody,” Paul said about Cooley. ”To have him back is going to have a big impact.”
Cooley has no doubt he’ll be able to play next weekend, and spending time in training camp and the preseason before getting cut made him confident he’s healthy.
”I was definitely OK with not playing football this year,” Cooley said, by way of explaining why he did not pursue opportunities with other teams.
He said he’s ”maintained the strength that I’ve had throughout most of my career” and done running to stay in shape and is pleased it turned out that he’ll get to return to the Redskins.
”It’s fortunate for both of us, I think. Fortunate for me that I get a chance to play where I want to play,” Cooley said. ”And fortunate for them that I sat here and waited. So it worked out.”
Notes: Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones announced the city will develop a site on land near the Science Museum of Virginia to host training camp for the Redskins starting next year. … Shanahan said LB London Fletcher has a ”slight” injury to his right hamstring and was getting treatment Monday. The team will know more Wednesday about Fletcher’s possible availability against Pittsburgh. Fletcher has played in 231 consecutive games. … Shanahan said he was ”disappointed” in the leg-whip penalty call against tackle Tyler Polumbus on Sunday. … Taking a shot at Brandon Banks over the player’s fumbling problems, Shanahan said: ”What Banks usually does a good job of is recovering his own fumbles. He’s got some experience fumbling the ball, but he always seems to get it. I told him once the opposition gets it, then he won’t have those opportunities.”