Riley Cooper was the story of the day – on and off the field.
The Eagles wide receiver returned to his team just a few days after being excused from training camp to seek counseling. Cooper was the subject of a firestorm of controversy for Philadelphia the previous week when a cell phone video of him at a concert was leaked to the media. On that video, Cooper was seen and heard using a racial epithet during a confrontation with an African-American security guard.
After the first joint practice with the Patriots, Cooper – a key component of Philadelphia's offense – spoke to reporters for about 10 minutes about the fallout from the incident.
He said his teammates, of all races, had been very supportive of him and seemed to forgive him for his indiscretion, for which he appeared to be remorseful.
On the field, Cooper had a tremendous practice session against the Patriots defense. He may have been the most impressive player on the field given the number of big plays he made during 11-on-11 team periods.
Twice, Cooper faked out Patriots corner Alfonzo Dennard on deep passes in the end zone. The first was on a rollout pass from QB Michael Vick, the second from Nick Foles. Later, Cooper blew past rookie corner Logan Ryan for yet another long scoring reception. After each play, several teammates raced over to congratulate Cooper.
"It felt good to be out there with the guys – catching, running, making some plays, and them coming up to you, supporting you, high-fiving you, chest-bumping you like Jason Avant did in the end zone when I had that TD," Cooper said later.
"It feels good to have support from the guys."
Did that support extend to the New England players on the field that Cooper faced all afternoon? Cooper said he was received equally graciously by the Patriots.
"No, everyone was great," he stressed. "It felt great to be back on the field."
Eagles coach Chip Kelly wasn't only facing questions about Cooper after practice, but also about how that situation might mirror one he dealt with back at the University of Oregon. In September 2009, his then running back LeGarrette Blount, now a member of the Patriots, punched an opponent after a game and was subsequently suspended.
"I don't really see any comparisons. It's two different circumstances," Kelly asserted in his post-practice remarks to reporters, "but I think everyone goes back to the experiences they've had in terms of dealing with players.
"Good thing for me is L.G. [Blount] was here today. I got a chance to give him a big hug. I'm really proud of him. Very, very proud of him. I told him, he shouldn't be defined by an incident that happened on September third, 2009, because that's not the kind of person L.G. is… I'm proud of where L.G. is right now."
Blount didn't want to revisit the incident itself, but spoke glowingly about the man who was his coach at the time.
"I like him as a person, you know. He's a good guy. I'm moving on past that, hopefully I'm going to continue to move past it. But all in all, he's an amazing guy. I like him and we've been in touch since I've been in the league."
Pat on the back
Patrick Chung gave several of his former Patriots teammates big hugs and handshakes prior to practice. Now a member of the Eagles, the veteran safety insisted that he didn't have any friendly trash-talking exchanges with them once practice – a rather intense and feisty practice – got heated.
"No, no, we're all good. It's all family," said Chung, a 2009 Patriots second-round draft choice.
And did it feel weird to be on the same field with his former club as an opponent?
"I'm good with my wings, man," he laughed, pointing to his Eagles helmet. "I'm happy."
Buy: Rookie receivers – This group, including tight end Zach Sudfeld, found holes in and exploited the Eagles defense throughout the afternoon, both in position/1-on-1 drills and in team period scrimmaging.
Sell: Patriots right guard position – Starter Dan Connolly hasn't really practiced all camp and three backups have been banged up and missed practices. New England resorted to tackle Will Svitek at the spot for most of the day.
Play of the Day: During a red zone 11-on-11 period, QB Tom Brady and WR Danny Amendola hooked up on a beautiful touchdown. With Amendola in the slot and rookie Josh Boyce flanking to the left of formation, Brady looked initially at Boyce, which made the defenders (in a zone) bite. Amendola raced to the empty space at the goal line and Brady lofted a pass to him. The receiver made a spectacular diving effort to come down with the scoring catch.
...The Patriots and Eagles suit up again for practice around noon on Wednesday.