Two days after Cooper was fined for his racially insensitive comment made at a Kenny Chesney concert, the Eagles wide receiver on Friday decided to step away from the team.
"Right now, I think it's important for me to take some time to reflect on this situation," Cooper said in a statement released by the team. "The organization and my teammates have been extremely supportive, but I also realize that there are people who will have a tough time forgiving me for what I've done. The best thing for me, and for the team, is to step away for a period of time.
The Eagles provided a statement of their own:
"As we have said, Riley Cooper will be seeking counseling and we have excused him from all team activities. This is all new territory and we are going to evaluate this timetable every step of the way. He will meet with professionals provided by the Eagles during this period of time to better help him understand how his words have hurt so many, including his teammates."
Ian Rapoport told NFL Network that Cooper remains on the active roster, saying, "He's basically away for an excused absence, so at this point the Eagles will not be able to replace him."
"We care about Riley ... we're not going to just kick him to the street," Kelly said, via the team's official website.
However, Rapoport reported the Eagles' stance might not be so cut-and-dry, saying: "What I'm being told is that it's likely Riley Cooper would be cut, instead now it's a little bit more difficult of a decision just because the Eagles have so little at receiver," Rapoport said. "So what they're going to do now is basically just think about their options and do so while Riley Cooper, hopefully for him, gets himself a little better and understands what he did and what he said."
In short, it's an open-ended situation in Philly. Cooper clearly is apologetic, but his outburst has generated debate that extends far beyond the boundaries of sport.
Inside the locker room, the threat of a divide lingers. While Vick told reporters he could accept Cooper as a teammate, running back LeSean McCoy described learning of his teammate's comment as "losing a friend," saying, "I can't respect a guy like that."
NFL Network's Darren Sharper agreed, saying Thursday: "I'm disgusted and appalled. I couldn't play with a guy like that. The thing about it is ... the context in which he said it was demeaning and degrading, so his apology wouldn't really not mean much to me. A guy like that, I know his true colors now, a guy I cannot trust -- similar to what LeSean McCoy said -- and I wouldn't want to have him in my locker room, because the locker room is so tight, you don't want to have bad team chemistry."Around The League Podcast is now available on iTunes! Click here to listen and subscribe.