Cooley angling to get back on field with swelling in knee down

ASHBURN, Va. -- Chris Cooley is doing a moonwalk of sorts to get healthy in time for the start of the season.

The Washington Redskins tight end has been running on the team's antigravity treadmill to stay in shape while keeping the pressure off his sore left knee.

"You zip in this cool thing, and it fills up with air all around you," Cooley said. "If you take it down to, like, 20 percent of your weight, it feels like you're walking on the moon. It's awesome."

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Cooley had the setting at 50 percent Monday. If there's no swelling in his knee, he'll increase it to 60 percent Tuesday. At that pace, he'll be putting his full weight on the knee by the end of the week and can start running outside, assuming there are no setbacks.

The goal, of course, is to be on the field when the Redskins host the New York Giants on Sept. 11.

"I'm extremely hopeful to practice pre-Week 1, and to play Week 1," Cooley said. "I would love to guarantee that I was going to play in Week 1, but I'm going to do everything I can to push for that date."

Cooley had surgery on the knee at the end of last season to repair torn cartilage. He said the cartilage is fine, but he said a bruise developed around the joint and caused some irritation and swelling.

He's had the knee drained and fitted with a brace. He's also had two rounds of blood platelet treatments to reduce the swelling, and he stayed inside last week during practice because just standing and watching was doing more harm than good.

"My joint was so irritated that it had to have some time to calm down," Cooley said. "My mindset has always been to push through things, and I was just hurting it more, more and more."

Cooley was encouraged Monday because his knee has shrunk so much that he needed to have the brace refitted.

"My knee's down, like, a half-an-inch," Cooley said. "I'm, like, `Ah, sweet."'

Cooley is vital to the Redskins offense and is coming off one of his best seasons, with 77 catches for 849 yards. He has a solid backup -- Fred Davis -- but coaches want to have both tight ends on the field at the same time more often this season, not one or the other.

"He wants to play as bad as anybody," coach Mike Shanahan said. "And if there's any way he can get out there, he will. Hopefully when he does start working out again, the knee doesn't get inflamed like it did before."

Cooley is certain that he would be past this setback if he could have worked with the Redskins trainers during the offseason, but the NFL lockout kept him away from the facility. He says he'll probably have to put up with some sort of discomfort in the knee for a few months.

"It seems to dissipate over time," he said. "So if it's this season that I manage it, hopefully by the end of the year I feel better -- and next season there's almost no issue."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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