*Riley Cooper, the Philadelphia Eagles player who shouted the N-Word on stage at a Kenny Chesney concert got into a scrap at practice today with an African American teammate, reports ESPN.
Quarterback Michael Vick had to hold back cornerback Cary Williams from the receiver during this morning’s flare up. While practicing one-on-one drills, Cooper was matched up with Williams. Vick threw a fade. Both men went up for it. There was contact in the air and after they landed in a heap.
“We got tangled up going for the ball,” Cooper said. “We both ended up on the ground — which you don’t want to do in practice, especially in the season. No one wants to end up on the ground going for a ball because that’s when injuries happen.”
Both Cooper and Williams came up angry, locking arms and trying to find an opening. Williams threw several punches as teammates, notably cornerback Brandon Boykin, tried to break it up.
“Stuff like that happens every single day,” Boykin said. “It just so happened that you guys were there to see it.”
As Cooper walked away, Williams shook free and threw his helmet on the ground. He started after Cooper, shouting. His words were drowned out by the deafening music coach Chip Kelly favors during practice. Vick grabbed hold of Williams’ shoulder pads and eventually succeeded in calming his teammate down.
Vick was ushered out of the locker room by public relations staffers after practice. The Philadelphia Daily News, however, caught up to him.
“I try to be the peacemaker,” Vick told the newspaper, “but these young dudes don’t respect me. Our maturity level’s got to be on a whole different plane. Regardless of who the catalyst was for the whole fight, that doesn’t matter. We’ve got to be men. We’re not guys who are out on the street, fighting one another. We’re teammates … It’s game week. We don’t have time for that. I don’t. It’s a distraction.”
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who talked to both Cooper and Williams on the field immediately after the scuffle, said he stressed the same message as Vick.
“Fighting isn’t going to win us the game Monday night,” Jackson said. “That’s the biggest thing. We’ve got to play a game Monday night. Practicing and doing things together with camaraderie is what we need, not the opposite, with people fighting.”
Williams has a history of on-field incidents. He was fined twice last season, while playing for the Baltimore Ravens, for extracurricular behavior. He and Jackson were fined $10,000 for after-the-whistle shoving in a game between the Ravens and Eagles. Williams was fined $15,750 for a late hit against Denver. He was also caught shoving an official in the Super Bowl.
Just last month, Williams was tossed out of a joint practice session with the Patriots for getting into a facemask-grabbing tussle with a Patriots wide receiver.
“He tries to annoy receivers,” Jackson said. “We have to show we’re tough, too.”
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said of the scuffle: “Any time there’s something extra on the field with Riley and another teammate or an opponent, that’s the first thing that’s going to come up — especially if the guy’s black.”
That is the situation the Eagles find themselves in five weeks after a video surfaced on the Internet of Cooper shouting, “I will fight every nig**r here!” after being held up by backstage security at the Chesney concert. The team decided not to release or suspend the fourth-year wide receiver. Cooper was fined, apologized to his teammates and took a brief leave of absence to seek counseling.
Cooper, however, told reporters that today’s incident had nothing to do with his use of a racial slur at the June concert, and said Williams didn’t mention it.
Williams was one of the African-American teammates who expressed reservations about sharing a locker room with a player caught using the “N-word” in public.
“It’s tough to get through,” Williams said at the time, “and I don’t know him. But I did see the tape and it’s disheartening for a guy to say something like that. I mean you’re angry, but I just feel like it’s several other words or things he could have said. He used something that was just over the top.”
Since then, the focus has been on moving forward and preparing for Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach. Kelly said he knew the issue wouldn’t disappear immediately, but hoped it would gradually fade away.