Tim Tebow Says He Prayed for Ex-Teammate Riley Cooper After Racial-Slur Incident
"You know we’re friends," Tebow said on Tuesday, via CSN Philly's Alec Nathan. "We’ve been close for a long time, so we’ll talk. I haven’t gotten to see him yet today. I’m sure I’ll see him soon, but I was definitely praying for him.”
Tebow, who was in Philadelphia for the New England Patriots' joint-practice session with the Eagles, was roommates with Cooper at the University of Florida from 2006 to 2009.
During that time, the two became fast friends en route to winning two national championships in 2007 and 2009. Cooper was one of Tebow's top targets in 2009, when he caught 51 passes for 961 yards and nine touchdowns.
Tuesday was his first day back at the Eagles training facilities after taking a leave of absence amid controversy.
Cooper has come under fire in recent weeks after a video leaked (Warning: NSFW language) of him spouting racial epithets at a Kenny Chesney concert in June. The 25-year-old wideout, who has been with the Eagles since 2010, had "a confrontation with an African American security guard," according to USA Today's Jim Corbett.
Amid the video's leak, Cooper apologized immediately. However, his insensitive remarks led to scorn from teammates, the media and commissioner Roger Goodell. Running back LeSean McCoy said the incident felt like "losing a friend," and that he could no longer respect Cooper after seeing the video, according to NFL.com's Albert Breer:
LeSean McCoy told me what hurts about Cooper's remarks is "losing a friend." I asked him what that meant, "I can't respect a guy like that."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 1, 2013
The Eagles fined Cooper an undisclosed amount and sent him into sensitivity training and counseling. Cooper left the team last week to undergo his training before returning to practice Tuesday afternoon.
He came back and sought out teammates to address the situation with individually, but he noted after practice that there was a long way to go in recovering his image, per The News Journal's Martin Frank.
"I’m going to live with this every day for the rest of my life,” Cooper said. “I realize how many people I’ve hurt, how many families I’ve hurt and how many young kids I’ve hurt. That’s what we talked about, the severity of it.”
As for whether Tebow knew about such a side of his former teammate, the Patriots quarterback declined to comment, saying, “I’m just going to keep our relationship private and that’s where I think it needs to be.”
While Tebow may not have found a chance to speak with Cooper during their first day of practice, he'll have plenty of opportunities. The Eagles and Patriots practiced again together Wednesday, and they will play their preseason opener against one another Friday at Lincoln Financial Field as well, where Cooper is expected to play.
The fourth-year receiver had a career-high 23 catches last season for 248 yards and three touchdowns. He is expected to see an increased role under head coach Chip Kelly this season, as ACL injuries to top wideout Jeremy Maclin and another to Arrelious Benn leave the Eagles hurting for depth at the position.
Tebow currently serves as the Patriots' third-string quarterback behind Tom Brady and Ryan Mallett. He's in his first season in New England after being released following a one-year stint with the New York Jets.
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