The Philadelphia Eagles opted not to suspend Riley Cooper for his video-taped racial slur at a recent Kenny Chesney concert. Cooper has decided to step away from the team anyway.
The Eagles announced Friday that Cooper "has been excused from all team activities as he seeks counseling for his recent actions." There was no timetable for when Cooper may return to the team, but head coach Chip Kelly reportedly insisted that Cooper will not be cut.
Cooper said the following in a statement:
"The last few days have been incredibly difficult for me. My actions were inexcusable. The more I think about what I did, the more disgusted I get. I keep trying to figure out how I could have said something so repulsive, and what I can do to make things better.
"Right now, I think it's important for me to take some time to reflect on this situation. 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.
"During this time I'm going to be speaking with a variety of professionals to help me better understand how I could have done something that was so offensive, and how I can start the healing process for everyone. As long as it takes, and whatever I have to do, I'm going to try to make this right."
Cooper apologized to the Eagles' front office and his teammates for the incident, but still found a very icy situation awaiting him within the locker room Thursday. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy reportedly said he "can't respect a guy like that", while the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane quoted multiple players who questioned how the situation had been handled.
The Eagles released a statement of their own on Friday, which read: "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." The football aspect of all this stands secondary to Cooper's off-field issues, but his departure -- whether it turns out to be permanent or temporary -- further thins out a Philadelphia receiving corps that recently lost Jeremy Maclin to a season-ending knee injury. Cooper had been expected to fill Maclin's spot in the starting lineup. Those plans, obviously, have to change now.