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'Skins rule Cooley out of preseason opener with knee issue

ASHBURN, Va. -- Chris Cooley spiked his helmet hard into the turf. He had just run a pass pattern during a training camp drill, and his knee was acting up again. He would have to sit out practice some more.

That's not the usual Cooley. He hates to miss practice, even for a play. His nickname is "Captain Chaos," but as a football player he is anything but chaotic. He's reliable and, from a coach's standpoint, has been pretty much trouble-free. The tight end says he's never been fined in his entire NFL career, which began when he was chosen as a third-round draft pick by the Washington Redskins out of Utah State in 2004.

Cooley missed zero games and only one practice in his first five years as a pro. The healthy streak ended when he broke his ankle  seven games into the 2009 season. The concern now is his left knee, which required surgery in the offseason. Cooley couldn't rehabilitate at Redskins Park because of the lockout, which in all probability slowed down his recovery.

Cooley aggravated the knee last week and had fluid drained from it. He attempted to return Tuesday -- the day he spiked his helmet -- but was sitting out again Wednesday morning and wasn't even on the field for the Wednesday afternoon walkthrough. He has been ruled out for Friday's preseason opener against Pittsburgh.

"There is concern," coach Mike Shanahan said. "The knee is sore. He's getting treatment and hopefully he keeps getting better."

The injury is especially frustrating for Cooley because he came to camp as enthusiastic as ever. He now ranks No. 2 in seniority, behind Mike Sellers, on the current Redskins roster, but there's no question who is No. 1 in people's hearts. There are No. 47 jerseys everywhere among the fans watching practice at Redskins Park. Fans loves his talent, his happy-go-lucky nature, his reveal-anything blog, his love of practical jokes -- and his candor.

"I'm not as chaotic as everyone thinks -- I'm just honest," Cooley said in an interview before his latest setback. "I'm a happy guy, but I'm honest."

Want an example? Here is his take on last year's Redskins, a team that dealt with endless distractions -- primarily involving Albert Haynesworth, Donovan McNabb and Clinton Portis -- and ended up 6-10 in Shanahan's first year with the team. Cooley doesn't name names, but he paints a clear picture of what went on.

"Distractions are a terrible influence on young players," Cooley said. "Veterans, truly, truly influence young players. I was truly influenced on this team initially by guys like Mark Brunell coming in and playing with LaVar Arrington. They don't have to be All-Stars, but young players are truly affected by the vets.

"When you get guys in here that don't want to work, don't want to practice, you get young guys that think: `I want to be like that. That's the point I want to get to in this league, is to play six years and to have everyone say, ah, he's going to show up on game day and play.' It's just not how it works. You've got to get a bunch of guys that are willing to work and respect each other and work hard."

Here's another Cooley comment that will appeal to fans everywhere -- a not-to-subtle dig at players who slack off.

"I love this game and I love my teammates. Beyond that, I have too much pride to say I'm not going to go work hard," he said. "I'd be too embarrassed. To not practice, to not work, to not be on time. I have too much pride. So even if I hated this game, I'd still be here doing everything I could. Plus, go look up what they pay me every year; tell me I'm not going to do everything I can to get that money."

"Where am I going to make that kind of money?" said Cooley, whose salary this year is $3.7 million. "Am I going to go into the corporate world? I wouldn't make anywhere near that. I understand that. Be a professional. Do your job."

To that end, Cooley credits Shanahan for changing the look of the roster this year, for bringing in players that "actually fit what we want, fit what we do" and creating a more professional environment.

"Mike's not going to pander to players because they're young or because they're great athletes," Cooley said. "He's going to hold guys accountable."

Cooley, 29, is coming off one of his best seasons -- 77 catches for 849 yards on a team that struggled to score as it adjusted to a new offense. Now he's ready for more.

"If I don't have the best year for this offense and for this staff, and for myself, it'll be a huge disappointment for me," he said. "I've played long enough, and I want to win, and I want to be so good, and I'm still healthy, and I'm still young, and it's just time for me to step up and make an impact for us."

Stay tuned. It turns out that he might have spoken too soon about being healthy.

Notes: QB John Beck (groin) remained limited in practice Wednesday, putting him closer to missing Friday's game. "He looked better today," Shanahan said, "but we're not going to play him unless we feel like it's close to 100 percent." If Beck doesn't play, Rex Grossman can snag an early advantage in the quarterback competition with a solid performance. Grossman's goal for Friday: "Be real efficient, have a couple of scoring drives, and get out of there." ... The Redskins signed QB Matt Gutierrez, who has been on rosters in New England and Kansas City, and released QB Marc Verica. They also signed TE Derek Schouman, who has played three seasons with Buffalo and one with St. Louis, and released TE Kevin Gidrey.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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