FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Finally some good news from Riley Cooper.
After missing virtually all of training camp so far with a foot injury, Cooper plans to return to practice Sunday, when the Eagles reconvene at the NovaCare Complex.
Cooper returned to individual drills during the Eagles-Patriots joint practices the last few days but hasn’t done any 7-on-7s or team work since he got hurt on July 29.
“I’m anxious,” he said. “I’m anxious to get back out there. You take so much time off … it’s something I need to do.”
Cooper said he won’t play against the Patriots Friday night at Gillette Stadium but expects to make his 2014 preseason debut against the Steelers next Thursday at the Linc.
With DeSean Jackson gone, the Eagles are counting heavily on Cooper, who goes into a season as a starter for the first time in four NFL seasons.
Cooper caught 47 passes for 835 yards and seven touchdowns in a breakthrough 2013 season, with most of the production coming after Nick Foles replaced Michael Vick. Cooper ranked sixth in the NFL with six receptions of 40 yards or more, and his 17.8 average was third-best in the league, behind only Kenny Stills (20.0) and Josh Gordon (18.9).
“I’m feeling a lot better, to be honest with you,” Cooper said. “Last two days I’ve done all the individual work and done some running around. Feeling a lot better.
“Not playing this game but Sunday I think I’ll start getting back into 7-on-7s and some team stuff and gradually get back into it.”
With Jeremy Maclin also out Friday night, Ifeanyi Momah and Arrelious Benn will likely start at wideout against the Patriots. Both are long shots to even make the team.
Cooper said he and Maclin need to get some time on the field with Nick Foles and the first offense before the regular season begins.
Since most starters are unlikely to play in the fourth game, that leaves the Steelers as the last opportunity for Cooper and Maclin to work together before the opener against the Jaguars on Sept. 7.
“It’s huge for us,” Cooper said. “It’s huge. It looks bad when your two starters are on the bench. It definitely looks bad.
“We’ve got to get healthy and get back out there. I know Mac and he’ll be back out there soon.
“I definitely need to play. I can’t just jump in against Jacksonville and start playing. [Pittsburgh] is my goal. I want to play next week and get back in the swing of things.”