In the days prior to the Washington Redskins' final preseason game of 2012, the team made a decision that shocked 'Skins fans throughout the Washington area. Chris Cooley, one of the most popular players, not to mention the Redskins' all-time leader in receptions at his position and nine-year veteran tight end was abruptly released by the team.
The two-time Pro Bowler had spent his entire career with the team, and following every catch, the fans at FedEx Field would yell his name in unison—prompting even my mother to ask me why the fans were booing.
In the press conference following his release, Cooley seemed a bit taken back by the news, declining to answer questions following his brief statement to the throng of media gathered that afternoon at the team's practice facility in Ashburn, VA.
"This will be my last day as a Redskin," he announced somberly.
News of his release spread fast among the Washington fan base with much of the discussion centering around Cooley's 2012 $3.8 million-plus salary and the team's need to create some room to remain under the salary cap.
Coach Mike Shanahan said Cooley's contract was not discussed, and he wanted him to have an opportunity to play with another team since he would not start at tight end—instead naming Fred Davis the starting tight end.
Following Cooley's release, Redskins' rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III wrote on Twittter, "He is a legend in my mind and will be missed. Thank You Chris Cooley."
His antics on and off the field, his love of heavy metal music, his wild hair styles and the fact that he accepted a bet from his teammates to introduce himself to the opposing team captains at the opening coin toss as "Captain Chaos" earned him the nickname.
Believe it or not, "Captain Chaos" was an art major while a student at Utah State, and during his time away from the Redskins, he devoted much of his free time to his art gallery 20 minutes from the team's training facility.
He is a potter, one who uses a spinning wheel and clay to create pottery, and suddenly this became more than just a hobby—hand-sculpted vases, steins and other relics from his collection are for sale on eBay as well as his art gallery.
Cooley also has devoted a lot of his time raising awareness for cancer research and hosts fundraising events following his mother's battle and successful fight with breast cancer in 2008.
Then the unexpected happened in Week 7, as Redskins' starting tight end Davis tore his left Achilles tendon against the New York Giants and could not return for the remainder of the 2012 season.
Shortly after returning from the team's 27-23 loss to the Giants, Coach Shanahan called Cooley and asked the fan favorite to return to the team. Cooley agreed and passed a physical exam to try and pick up where he had left off. Redskins' back-up quarterback Kirk Cousins even gave Cooley his old locker back.
"Captain Chaos" even tried to get a case of beer included in his new contract—reportedly for the league minimum $825,000 for six-to-nine year veterans. In an interview with a DC-area television station, quarterback RGIII called Cooley "a little weird."
With resounding approval from Redskins fans, Cooley was back and ready for action, although he would be listed third on the team's depth chart at tight end behind starters Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul. Cooley said he was glad to be back on the only team he had played for and would ever come back to play in the NFL.
In his first game back with the Redskins in Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cooley was bursting with enthusiasm as he told reporters, "It was the best I've felt, ever." He finished the game without a catch.
The same thing the happened the following week. Not a single catch. Then the next week. And again. And again.
Although a non-factor in his latest stint with the team, prior to the final regular season game against the Dallas Cowboys and amid the 'Skins six-game winning streak, Cooley told reporters this was, "the most exciting part of his career."
Cooley finished his return to the Redskins and the 2012 season with one catch—an eight-yard reception for a first down against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16.
With all of the excitement surrounding his return and the electricity Cooley generates among the fans, why was he brought back in such a limited role? What does the future hold for the all-time leader in receptions as a tight end?
Perhaps, and I'm only thinking out loud, Cooley could join the team and the Redskins' organization in a coaching capacity and a future replacement for current tight end coach Sean McVay who has been with the team for three seasons.
If nothing else, the team could adopt "Captain Chaos" as the new team mascot, and he make public appearances on behalf of the Redskins.
Either way Chris Cooley is and always will be a part of the Washington Redskins.
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