The last time Redskins tight end Chris Cooley appeared publicly at Redskins Park, he was announcing his release after eight seasons in Washington.
His message to the media was clear at the time: he was still capable of playing NFL football, but he would take time to consider his options before seeking employment elsewhere.
On Tuesday afternoon, he returned to Redskins Park to host the fifth-annual breast cancer All-Star Survivor event, and said the time away from football has been a welcome change of pace.
"It's been fun," he said. "I feel like I wake up and I'm busy until 8 p.m., but it's great because it's my schedule, and I'm focused on things that I really like to do."
Cooley is the Redskins' all-time leader for receptions by a tight end (428), and remains a free agent. He explained that recent discussions with the organization and front office have been productive, but not necessarily football-related.
On the eve of the Week 1 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, Redskins general manager Bruce Allen told fans that he would be meeting with Cooley in the near future.
"I think how that started was someone asked Bruce if he was going to talk to me," Cooley explained. "We were just going to grab a beer; it had nothing to do with football.
"We'll see what happens from here, but it wasn't a big deal."
Cooley, 30, reported that his health is not longer a concern, and left the door open that he could return to the gridiron in this season or beyond. In the mean time, he intends to work on his life outside of football.
"It's hard to balance playing football with all the things you want to do," he said. "Whether right now, [my football career] is over, I play this year and it's over--it's not going to last forever."
"I've done everything I can here to make the relationships so I can do what I want to do with the rest of my life."
In addition to working around his house in the last five weeks, Cooley has devoted time to his art gallery in Leesburg, Va., making pieces for charity and organizing events to benefit breast cancer awareness.
"One of the greatest things about my career was the impact that it had on my life and giving me a platform to do things for other people," he said. "The Redskins have helped me so much as a person, in growing who I am, and helping me do the things I want to do off the field."
Although he does not suit up for the team on Sunday, Cooley sais he intends to continue his relationship with the organization in some capacity moving forward.
"The Redskins aren't calling me to play football, but they're calling me because they're friends," he said. "It's incredible, the support I've gotten, even after being released by the team.
"Not only from our fan base, but from the people in this organization: the owner, the general manager, the coaches. The Redskins have helped me a ton and this community has been amazing."
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