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Redskins' Cooley blames lockout for injury-shortened season

ASHBURN, Va. -- The NFL has made Chris Cooley a millionaire many times over. During the NFL lockout, when he was banned from working with the Washington Redskins' training staff, he could've hired the best physical therapists around to help him with the left knee that was feeling stiff from surgery in January.

Instead, he figured he would handle it himself. He didn't think the knee was that bad.

It was a decision that essentially cost him a season, and maybe his career. The knee didn't recover. He missed almost all of training camp and muddled through five games, unable to run more than 10 yards without pain. He had the knee drained 15 times.

This week, coach Mike Shanahan placed the two-time Pro Bowl tight end on injured reserve.

"I feel 100 percent that I'm a casualty for the season of the lockout," Cooley said Thursday. "I think it was a shame that they didn't let players who had surgery spend time with the doctors and trainers they trust on a daily basis, I wish I could've."

"I can ice it at home," he added. "I can do things at home, but it's a shame it is the way it is, and there's no one to blame. I guess the person to truly blame would be to say I should've thought more about it. ... I probably should have taken more time rehabbing initially, and that's again stubbornness of me thinking I'm going to be OK, and I'm just going to work through pain. That's how I've got through my entire career and it's always worked, and it didn't work this time."

Cooley finally went to a therapist in late June, much too late. The knee was sore and swollen throughout the preseason. He played in the first five regular-season games, but he caught only eight passes for 65 yards and was even taking snaps at fullback. When he broke his left index finger against Philadelphia on Oct. 16 -- a nasty injury that required 10 stitches and weeks of recovery -- he had the knee re-examined.

Cooley flew to Florida on Sunday and met with Dr. James Andrews. The verdict: Shut the knee down, or else risk having to undergo a microfracture procedure that could be career-ending.

"Dr. Andrews thought a microfracture would be 50-50, at best 70 percent, that I would play again," Cooley said.

Cooley is now on crutches, having been told to keep weight off the knee for two weeks. He can't run for the next three to four months. He says the prognosis is that he'll be ready for minicamp next spring, a better alternative than trying to hang around this season on one leg.

"I want to help the team. I can't hold them hostage," Cooley said. "I can't go into coach Shanahan's office and say, `You're going to give me seven weeks, and you're going to hold a roster spot for me while I hopefully get better.' That's not fair to anybody."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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