How Riley Cooper put slur in past

"He had to work his way back with a lot of people," Avant said, "a lot of black guys on the team. He had to go to some of those guys and let them know his heart about the situation. He did, and I think guys received him.

"I can tell you this, that Riley experiences more racism than anybody. Being a white receiver in the NFL, that's not a … I'm out there with him. For years, I've heard some ridiculous things, that he doesn't deserve to be out there. That's happened way before this incident. I don't want to say it to be a cop-out, but what I'm saying is that him being in the position that he's in, it happens in this league. So you have to have that mindset to have a merciful heart."

Winning makes everything easier. At the beginning of the season, Cooper, now 26, was booed at Lincoln Financial Field, but part of that had to do with the fact that he wasn't producing and the Eagles were struggling. Now when he scores a touchdown, the crowd erupts and cheers.

"I think the city will feel much better if the Eagles win the Super Bowl," Williams, Philadelphia's D.A., joked.

Things had come easy for Cooper most of his life. Some people who know him said he gave off an air of entitlement. That attitude appears to be gone.

The security guard who drew Cooper's ire has never been identified. Contemporary Services Corporation, which helps handle security at the stadium, replied to an interview request but said the Eagles would have to sign off on it. The Eagles have steadfastly said they want to move on from the incident.

So does center Jason Kelce, who was with Cooper at the concert. Kelce concedes it could've been a disaster and said in many similar situations, a player wouldn't have been welcomed back. If Cooper was a jerk, he said, the team probably would've turned on him, but they know Cooper's heart.

"He had to mature or he would've been out of here from the get-go," Kelce said. "I don't think he had a choice. Right away, the whole front office, the whole city, was on him hard.

"There's no doubt he handles himself differently in public; he handles himself differently when he's around people. I think he has to. His whole life changed in a matter of months."

And so did the Eagles' fortunes. Edwards, the sports sociologist, is impressed with the team's success. But he's just as pleased when he sees a teammate hold out a hand to help Cooper off the ground after he's made a catch.

"Chemistry is not about liking each other," Edwards said. "Chemistry is about respecting each other, trusting each other and knowing that you can depend on each other to get their jobs done in what is perhaps the most physically and mentally challenging sport that exists in this country."

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