Wild hair, chaos and 'nutrients': TE Cooley is Redskins' wild child

Updated: August 9, 2006, 2:16 PM ET
Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- The hair is growing out of control and those black knee-high socks at practice this week were laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Need more evidence that Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley is a downright goofball? Consider the behind-the-scenes story involving a pill bottle in the huddle.

It seems that Cooley, quarterback Mark Brunell and tight end Christian Fauria were having lunch after a recent training camp practice. Fauria, especially tired after the hot workout, expressed his fatigue by saying: "I need some more nutrients."

Nutrients? What kind of football player would utter a sentence like that? Cooley and Brunell couldn't help but laugh. "We made fun of him at the dinner table," Cooley said.

The next day, during another of coach Joe Gibbs' hard-nosed practices, Cooley walked into the huddle and feigned exhaustion. Right on cue, Brunell produced a bottle of vitamins, wrapped in athletic tape and labeled with the word "nutrients" written in permanent marker.

"He pops out about three of them in his hand," Cooley said. "He said, 'Here, I've got some 'nutrients' for you, bro.' So we both took some 'nutrients."

Needless to say, there was laughter all around, all at Fauria's expense.

"You've got to have fun to be here," Cooley said. "You spend a lot of time around the guys, you've got to make it fun. I really try to, even on days I feel terrible, I really try to goof around and enjoy myself."

If multi-costumed running back Clinton Portis is the Redskins' court jester, Cooley qualifies as the team's wild child. Teammates have nicknamed him "Captain Chaos." He looks, at times, as if he would be more at home cruising a mall parking lot with high school kids on a Saturday night than playing a rugged, high-pressure professional sport.

"Some of the best goofballs were great football players," said assistant coach Joe Bugel, who can start with colorful running back John Riggins and easily rattle off a list of off-the-wall characters from the Redskins teams of the 1980s. "Cooley likes to play. He likes to grow his hair long. He does different things. Today he had on black pantaloons and high black socks. He's a fun-loving guy."

Of course, none of the antics would matter if Cooley weren't a good football player. For all the excitement over a receiving corps that now includes Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El, Cooley could be the most dangerous weapon because of his versatility, size and deceptive speed.

"He'll catch a lot of passes in this offense," Bugel said.

In a silly way, Cooley caught too many passes last year. Among his 71 receptions and seven touchdowns were three TD catches against Dallas in a big December game. It was his biggest day in the NFL so far -- and it just so happened that it reaped benefits for Cooley's opponent in a fantasy football league.

"I honestly lost because I beat myself," Cooley said. "I was on the other (fantasy) team, and I score three touchdown against Dallas, and I lost to myself in fantasy points."

Cooley said he doesn't take his fantasy teams seriously, that he plays because it keeps him in touch with old high school friends back in Utah. But might he try picking himself from now on?

"I'm not going to sacrifice a good team just to have myself on it," he said jokingly.

Nevertheless, Cooley is sure to be a favorite pick among fantasy players this year, especially now that he has shed the H-back label of the old offense and is playing in a more aggressive scheme under new assistant coach Al Saunders.

"You will see me downfield a lot more," Cooley said. "Our offense plays with speed, and I think that's our biggest threat right now. We have speed all over the field. And it can open up for anybody. If I make a couple of catches down the middle and the safeties come to me, Santana and Randle El and Lloyd are going to be open on the outside."

Cooley's only real bout with controversy came last year when The Washington Post detailed his relationships with two Redskins cheerleaders. Both were fired from the squad for violating a rule forbidding fraternization with players. Otherwise, as with Portis, the coaches are happy to embrace Cooley's personality -- as long as he produces on the field and as long as his off-the-field antics don't detract from the team.

"It's just them being themselves," Gibbs said. "I think it would be awful boring if you're out here doing all this hard work and guys didn't have a good sense of humor."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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