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Redskins release veteran tight end Cooley

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

Tight end is emotional as he says his goodbye

ASHBURN -- Chris Cooley knew the words he wanted to say. He just had a hard time getting them out on occasion, pausing as the emotion of the day strangled his vocal chords. This is a day he feared: the end of his Redskins career.

It ended with him delivering a nearly five-minute speech in which he had to pause several times.

"I'm such a baby," he said at one point.

But for Cooley, who was released Tuesday, the end came before he was ready. The Redskins started moving in another direction a year ago when Fred Davis became their No. 1 tight end. In the offseason, they moved receiver Niles Paul to tight end.

"I told him Fred was going to be our starter," Shanahan said. "There was no guarantee, but if he wanted to be a starter I would give him every option to seek that opportunity out, and that's what we're doing at this time."

Shanahan said he informed Cooley on Tuesday. Cooley did not take any questions

"It's been awesome," he said. "I've been very fortunate to play for a franchise that has embraced me and for a fan base that has embraced me. This organization has changed my life in every way for the better, and I appreciate it. I loved every minute of playing here."

But for a guy who Shanahan said wants to still start, it's uncertain if Cooley wants to do that anywhere else.

"I have every belief that I can be not only a productive player but a starter in this league," he said. "It would be a tough decision for me to put on another jersey. ... It's something ... that I've really never had to imagine so, for now, I'll take some time and make sure what I do in the future is exactly what I want to do."

The Redskins selected Cooley in the third round of the 2004 draft, and he quickly established himself as a fan favorite. He has 428 receptions and 33 touchdowns. But injuries ended two of his last three seasons. He played in five games last year because of a knee that continued to bother him the entire 2011 offseason. The coaches wanted to see if he had anything left and could stay healthy this summer.

But Cooley did not get many opportunities in the passing game. He did show his versatility in being able to play fullback, but even he said a couple weeks ago that converted receiver Niles Paul could learn this spot in a relatively short period.

Cooley said he's not bitter.

"There's really no hard feelings," Cooley said. "It's OK with me that they're moving in the direction they're moving. Even though I'm not a part of that today I still do believe in what they're doing."

Shanahan would not say if Cooley asked for his release, and he also didn't say if they'd bring him back should something happen to Davis (or any of the other tight ends).

"I thought in fairness to him and what he's done for this organization, he shouldn't have to wait to the end to make our final decision," Shanahan said. "There's a lot of scenarios that can still occur. I'm not going to get into specifics. There's a lot of scenarios that could happen here in the next week, but Chris wants to start. He wants to play. He's done a lot to prove he can play.

"I think he'll have a good chance to get that opportunity."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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