By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia (CBS)—Riley Cooper may not have to worry about any bounty being placed on his head by Marcus Vick. Embattled by racial slurs he got caught uttering at a Kenny Chesney concert in June, the Eagles' wide receiver might have deeper concerns ahead with actual NFL players on the field when the season begins.
That's if Cooper is still an Eagle.
Though the Eagles put on their best political face Wednesday after Cooper publicly apologized for his insensitive remark, and then privately with his Eagle teammates, the news sent a sharp undercurrent throughout some NFL locker rooms.
"I know there are more than a few guys angry on my team [at what Cooper said], you would think that after all of these years people would be past this, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone acts like an idiot and takes a shot at his knees if he's on special teams," said one NFL player, who asked that his name not be used publicly. "The league wants to keep a lid on this as much as possible, and hopes it goes away. The 'n-word,' as they like to say, is all over. I will tell you this, it's said all over—on the field, definitely in locker rooms. This is really nothing new.
"Is what Cooper said wrong? Definitely! But he's not the first and he won't be the last. What happened in Cooper's case, from what I know, is that he got caught by a camera phone. The Eagles and the league will try to shove this under the rug as much as possible. But guys remember things like that. They'll look up his number. Some angry guy will find it and who knows what may happen. And there are a lot of angry guys in the NFL."
Former NFL tight end and Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe was on the Davis and Norris show on Baltimore's 105.7 The Fan Thursday morning. Sharpe was asked if he would forgive Cooper if he was his teammate.
"I would have to, he's a teammate. But look, you opened up a can of worms because now we have to address something that's non-football related. Now you're taking this entire team's focus off of something that's not football related. Those are the problems that I had with teammates that did something out of the scope that I had to address. I wasn't there to address your problem. A bigger issue is now his mom, his father, his brother and sister have to address issues that they shouldn't have to address because he was speaking. But look, I would say, 'Look man, I can't believe you said that. Hopefully that's not in your heart.' But normally when people are drinking and they're pissed off they say truthful things, they say things from their heart. I'm gonna move on, but I hope the rest of the guys can forgive him. But what he did open was a can of worms for everybody else that plays on the opposite side of the football that's gonna be teeing off on him. Because most of the safeties in the National Football League are African American. Most of the corners - African American. A lot of the linebackers - African American. Those are the guys that he's gonna have to face. Those are the guys that he's gonna have to make amends to."
According to a number of sources, Riley Cooper wanted to be treated as if he was Bradley Cooper at the Chesney concert. He was an unruly "drunk who wanted the red-carpet treatment and security to basically kiss his a--, because he was 'Riley Cooper, an Eagle,' from what I saw," said someone close to what happened that night. Apparently, when Cooper pulled out the "Don't-you-know-who-I-am" card, it wasn't acknowledged. "Security wasn't having it" and Cooper apparently had a snit-fit.
In public, confirmed a former Eagle, Cooper thinks he's "something special."
Deep down, he had to think that way for the word to surface in that context, said another player who plays in the AFC and whose team won't face the Eagles this season.
But if they did, "I have a feeling a few guys might want to take a crack at him," the player said. "Guys talk. No one would ever be dumb enough to go public and say that they're out to get [Cooper], but I wouldn't be surprised if he's reminded a few times on the field about what he said. Everything is said on a football. I was called [the n-word] from high school to college—by black and white players. Put it this way, don't be surprised if some dope nails [Cooper] and he gets up slow. The question I have is how many of his teammates will have his back?"
If Jeremy Maclin were not lost for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, Cooper, who was fined by the Eagles, might not have a job. To his credit, Eagles' owner Jeffery Lurie quickly reacted, putting out a public statement denouncing what Cooper said, as did the NFL.
And though the Eagles and the NFL were out front of this controversial matter, the league and the Eagles may need to enlist the thought police to find out what really lurks in player's minds and hearts.
A camera phone at a Kenny Chesney concert may have revealed what Riley Cooper thought about a "lowly security guard doing his job, and we get cussed at all of the time," said the source who witnessed the Cooper meltdown.
It seems this was only a matter of time before someone who may have harbored a toxic mentality went viral.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.
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