How Riley Cooper put slur in past

"If you suspend Riley Cooper and do not suspend that African-American who drops an N-bomb, then it's not about the N-bomb. It's about who uses it, and then that opens another can of worms. You've got a fence that these people can talk this way and those people can't. That is not conducive to cohesiveness."

So Edwards and the Eagles tried to figure out how to get Cooper back into the fold and to minimize this giant distraction. The team needed him. A few days earlier, starting receiver Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL during training camp, leaving the Eagles with limited options at receiver.

Cooper was fined an undisclosed amount by the Eagles and ordered to undergo sensitivity training. Edwards suggested Cooper leave the team for a while to clear his head, and Cooper did, going home to Florida for several days before telling Kelly he was ready to come back. Cooper eventually apologized to every member of his team individually.

While people close to the organization speculated that former coach Andy Reid would've been much harsher on Cooper, Edwards said suspending him wouldn't have helped the team or the situation.

There was a team meeting just after the incident -- Cooper wasn't there -- and Kelly opened the floor for the players to say whatever was on their minds. There was tension, former Eagles safety David Sims said, but the majority of talk was positive, focusing on moving on and welcoming Cooper back.

"You know, to some it was a big deal, and to some it wasn't," Sims said. "It wasn't a big deal to me. It's not the first time I've heard a white guy say it."

A number of various teammates, ex-teammates and coaches were interviewed for this story, and none of them had any memories of Cooper spouting racist comments. He did have a reputation for occasionally being a hothead, yes. In high school, he was suspended for three games for hurling obscenities at an official. He did it as his Clearwater Central Catholic football team was getting manhandled 27-0 by Jesuit High.

Cooper was also a star baseball player -- he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 15th round coming out of high school -- but he never got used to the success-failure ratio in baseball. He couldn't fathom that failing two of three times at the plate actually meant you were doing well.

He was born in Oklahoma City to an uber-competitive mother who played college soccer and an equally competitive father who's president of his own realty company. Larry and Monica Cooper moved the family to Clearwater when Riley was 2 and were always active in the athletic lives of Riley and his sister Lindsey, who plays soccer for the University of Florida.

Riley was blessed with a rare combination of size, speed and toughness that made his football coaches giddy and his baseball coaches a little nervous. Cooper hit two grand slams in one game when he was a teenager playing for the Florida Bombers in a select summer baseball league. He also collided head-first with anything that stood in his way.

"He was just a little more assertive and aggressive than kids that age," said Emilio Fernandez, who coached Cooper on the Bombers. "I totally pin it on the football side of that. A football guy, if he goes 0-for-2, he's upset and throwing his helmet and moping in the dugout. He's not handling it the same way as a kid doing only baseball.

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