Although Chris Cooley signed a contract 48 hours ago, his return to the NFL became official Wednesday at Redskins Park.
Cooley moved back into his old locker at the team's Ashburn practice facility. He attended position meetings and, as he said, took notes like a "high schooler". He pulled on his cleats, buckled his helmet and walked down to the practice field.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “It’s exciting for me. I woke up like a little kid. It’s a normal day of work.”
After eight years of going through the rigors of professional football, Cooley said he enjoyed his brief time away from the game. But he also hinted that he was hoping for another shot, particularly since things didn’t end on his terms when he was released in August.
“I didn’t want to be done when I was done. It wasn’t my choice,” he said. “The time [away] definitely wasn’t a bad time. It was time for me to do whatever I wanted. It was a good break. But at the same time, this is the way I hoped things would have played out for my career. So I’m thrilled to be here.”
Cooley also said the one thing the hiatus made him realize is how popular he remains among among fans.
“I’ve had unbelievable support from not only our fan base, but our staff, players and everyone in my life," he said. "It’s been pretty unbelievable the way people feel about me and the way people feel about me playing. I can say that the Redskins have made my cellphone very, very popular this year.”
Cooley reiterated that he’s kept himself in good shape. But the 30-year-old also acknowledged that Wednesday's practice will be telling.
“I feel great physically,” he said. “I’m excited to get out on a field and run around and actually play football. You never really know until you start running. Football is a different world than your usual workout. But I think it will be a quick transition.”
As of Wednesday morning, Cooley said he still hadn’t been told by the coaching staff how exactly he’ll be utilized Sunday in Pittsburgh. But does know this much: he needs to brush up on his terminology in the coming days.
“The verbiage is there for me, and everything that we’ve always done is there,” Cooley said. “But some of our run plays have the longest play calls in the world. So it’s just learning how to pick up all the terms and put yourself where you need to be.”
Cooley said he has quickly settled right back into his old routine. But, he joked, it’s going to take some of his teammates a little time to get used to seeing him around again.
“I think half of them thought I was just here to do my Larry Michael show on Wednesdays,” he said, smiling. “It was like, ‘Hey, you didn’t dress up today.’”