"I knew how guys were thinking," said Vick, who lived through his own controversy for his involvement in a dogfighting ring. "I overheard guys talking. Some of the things, I just didn't like what I was hearing. I knew it had to be corrected. I just felt like I was obligated to make sure that this locker room stayed intact.
"What we went through brought us closer together. I think it brought us closer as a team. Once we got through that, we knew we could get through anything. I think he's definitely become a better player because of the issue. Maybe it was a way for him to get the best out of himself."
By initial accounts, Kenny Chesney's concert at Lincoln Financial Field on June 9 was just another ordinary summer night in Philadelphia. Near the end of the show, Chesney summoned new coach Chip Kelly and a few Eagles players on stage during his song "Boys of Fall," and a photo of the moment appeared on various websites. One local newspaper wrote that Cooper, in a ponytail, cutoff flannel shirt and jean shorts, ran around the stage high-fiving fans and dancing so oddly that Chesney missed a few lines in his song because he was fixated on the receiver's behavior.
Cooper had been drinking for much of the day and at some point that night was denied backstage access by an African-American security guard. Enraged and pointing his finger, Cooper said he would "jump that fence and fight every n----- here, bro." The moment was caught on a camera phone, and it stayed there for more than a month until it was released to CrossingBroad.com, a local website, just days after training camp started. The video went viral; the team and its first-year coach had a huge mess on their hands.
The Eagles quickly made a number of calls seeking advice. They contacted Seth Williams, Philadelphia's district attorney, and mayor Michael Nutter. They asked the prominent African-Americans what Cooper could do to make things right in the community.
There was already some racial tension. Two weeks earlier in Florida, George Zimmerman was acquitted in his murder trial for the shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin. Four months before that, Philadelphia magazine ran a controversial essay called "Being White in Philly" that rankled Mayor Nutter so deeply that he called for the magazine to be punished over the story.
Sensing the magnitude of the situation, the Eagles also reached out to sports sociologist Harry Edwards.
Edwards, who works with the San Francisco 49ers, is a former Black Panther who helped inspire Tommie Smith and John Carlos to raise their fists during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics. He'd worked with Kelly's staff before when Kelly was at Oregon and running back LeGarrette Blount punched a white Boise State player back in 2009. Edwards helped Kelly formulate a plan to get Blount, who was initially suspended for the entire season, back on the football field.
But Cooper's situation was much different.
"If you suspend him, then what are you going to do when an African-American drops an N-bomb on another African-American?" Edwards said. "Are you going to demand he be suspended? Also, what do you do when someone puts on rap music in the locker room with N-bombs and F-bombs? What you're going to wind up with is a very short roster.