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Chip Kelly, seen here directing practice on Wednesday, admited on Thursday that he's concerned with how the team will react to Riley Cooper's comment. (AP)
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly admitted Thursday he’s concerned about how Riley Cooper’s use of a racial slur this summer at a concert is going to affect locker room chemistry and said he doesn’t expect things to be back to normal with his team for quite a while.
Asked whether he fears a division in the locker room, Kelly was blunt.
"Yeah, there is a concern with that,” he said after practice in the team’s indoor bubble. “Obviously, it's a very hot topic and that’s why I encouraged our team [that] we've got to have some open communication so everybody knows what went on and what Riley is doing to atone for it.”
Cooper, a fourth-year wide receiver from Florida, was caught on a cell phone videotape using a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert at the Linc in June. The video did not appear until Wednesday.
After consulting with league officials, the Eagles fined Cooper and required him to undergo sensitivity training.
“We agreed with Riley that he needs some assistance, and we’ll provide him the resources to meet with certain people that he needs to talk to about the situation and why it happened and it make sure it never happens again,” Kelly said.
Kelly said several times that he doesn’t expect this episode to simply go away now that Cooper has apologized. He knows it’s going to take a while, and he understands that some players will never forgive Cooper. He emphasized several times how crucial communication among the players will be.
“This isn’t a situation that you brush underneath the rug,” he said. “It’s going to take some time.
“There are some guys who just met him and are just trying to wrap their arms around it. I don’t think this is a situation that’s going to go away tomorrow.”
Kelly said that he, owner Jeff Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman agreed Wednesday evening it was vital for the players to have an open dialogue after news of the video emerged.
He said Cooper asked to address the team, which he did after the evening walkthrough. He said additional conversations in the future will likely be needed.
“Riley asked me if he could address the team, and then I felt it was really important after Riley addresed the team we weren’t done. I wasn’t going to blow the whistle and start practice. I left it open, does anybody have anything to say?
“Michael [Vick] stepped up and said some words from the heart, Jason Avant stepped up and said some words. Because of the situation, I thought it was important that we started a dialogue at that point time.
“We talked about it as a staff, and I encouraged our position coaches to have discussions in our meetings,” he said. “In a situation like this, X’s and O’s are really out the window. It’s an important situation to address, and we’re not going to stick our heads in the sand because we have the Patriots coming in here next week.
“We encourage dialogue in our position groups, and then if there are issues and players still have issues within the position meetings, we need to set up meetings with Riley and those guys so they can get to know Riley better.
“Riley made a heinous mistake. I was appalled by it. I was actually shocked by it. Since I’ve been here, that’s not the Riley Cooper I know. He accepted responsibility and he’s got to live with it. I hope at some point in time we’ll get a chance to move on from it, but I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s going to go away quickly.”