Chris Cooley stepped up to the podium at Redskins Park on Tuesday afternoon and, while holding back tears, announced that the Washington Redskins have released him.
"The Washington Redskins are releasing me today. So today, for the time being, will be my last day as a Redskin," he said, perhaps hinting at a future return. "I've been very, very fortunate to play for a franchise that has embraced me, and a fan base that has embraced me the way they have. This organization has changed my life, in every way, for the better and I appreciate it. I have loved every minute of playing here."
Cooley, who had been the longest-tenured Redskins player until Tuesday, became more emotional as he started to talk about the possibility of playing for another team. He spoke briefly about his future and talked more about his excitement for the future of the Redskins.
"It's okay with me that they're moving in the direction they're moving," said the 30-year-old veteran who has played his entire career with the Redskins. "Since Bruce and Mike have been here, I've trusted everything that they've done and everything that they want to do. Even though I'm not a part of that today, I still believe in what they're doing."
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was also in attendance in attendance at the press conference and appeared to be wiping tears from his face as Cooley spoke.
"We all know how much Chris means to this organization. He's a guy that I have leaned on since I got here," Shanahan told reporters, via Zac Boyer of the Free Lance-Star. "At the end, he wants to be a starter, and he's going to seek out all the options."
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk wrote shortly after the presser that Cooley could actually end up returning to the Redskins.
Washington selected Cooley in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Since then, only Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow Jr. have had more receptions at the tight end position. He ranks fifth all-time in franchise history in receptions and ninth in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.