Veteran tight end eager to show he's able to contribute

ASHBURN -- The only call Chris Cooley wanted to answer came Sunday night. Other teams had called him. Some offered a chance that could have resulted in a starting role. That's not what Cooley wanted.

However, when the Redskins phoned Sunday -- several hours after tight end Fred Davis' season ended with a ruptured Achilles tendon -- he was quick to respond.

"If I would have been somewhere else right now, I would be devastated," Cooley said. "There was a part of me that was content [with not playing], but at the same time I wanted to be a part of this team."

Which, of course, he is now. The question now becomes: How much can Cooley help the Redskins? He knows their offense and is considered a solid blocker, but he was never a workout fanatic, is 30 years old and appeared in only five games last season because of a knee injury.

Cooley said staying healthy throughout training camp was meaningful.

"If I get an opportunity to show everyone what I can do and show them that I'm healthy because I haven't over the last two years, it'll give me an opportunity to prolong my career," Cooley said.

But he hasn't played since August.

"I wasn't at home doing squats and power cleans and listening to Rocky music," Cooley said. "But at the same time I'm in good shape and I'll step right back in and fit in and play.

"I'll be ready to play. It's not like I got fat."

Cooley delivered a similar message to coach Mike Shanahan.

"He said he was in pretty good shape," Shanahan said. "I trust Chris. If he says he's in good shape, he's in good shape. Hopefully he can help us this next week. ... We expect him to play at the level he has played at in the past."

He caught 428 passes in his first eight seasons with Washington, more than any tight end in franchise history, and scored 33 touchdowns. Cooley's strength always has been finding soft spots in zone coverage and gaining yards after the catch. However, it's uncertain what role he'll play. Logan Paulsen has 18 career catches, while Niles Paul has four catches at tight end and six overall.

"It's great to have him back," Paul said. "He knows this offense better than anybody. To have him back is going to be a big impact on this offense and this team."

But can Cooley still hurt a defense? Can he be an effective starter if the Redskins need him to be in that role? Paul is still getting used to playing tight end after switching from receiver. So Cooley will need to have a bigger role than a typical player signed after seven games.

"It's been unreal watching them come together as an offense and not be there," Cooley said. "It'll be fun for me. ... I'm excited to be back and be part of the locker room and be part of the group. I wouldn't say this is it. I know I can keep playing."