Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said goodbye on Tuesday afternoon, telling the gathered media after practice that he had been released from the Redskins 75-man roster.
"Today, for the time being, will be my last day as a Washington Redskin. It's been awesome," he said with obvious emotion. "I've been very, very fortunate to play for a franchise that has embraced me and for a fan base that embraced me the way they have.
"This organization has changed my life, in every way and for the better. I appreciate it."
Cooley finishes his career with the Redskins as the franchise's all-time leader in receptions by a tight end. He posted 428 receptions for 4,703 yards and 33 receiving touchdowns.
He was the longest-tenured member of the team.
Cooley shared his continued excitement on the Redskins' outlook, crediting the coaching staff and front office for being honest with him throughout.
Even as he leaves the only team he's ever known in the NFL, he said that he walks away without ill will.
"Since [general manager] Bruce [Allen] and Mike [Shanahan] have been here, I've trusted everything they've done, and everything they want to do," he said. "Even though I'm not a part of that today, I still do believe in what they're doing.
"I'm thrilled for what they can accomplish, and wish everyone here the best. I think the future is awesome."
Even at age 30, Cooley expressed confidence that he can still play and start in the NFL, but will take his time in deciding whether or not he wants to return.
"I'm very confident in my abilities to continue to play the game," he said. "I have every belief that I can be not only a productive player, but a starter in this league."
Head coach Mike Shanahan echoed these sentiments, citing this as the impetus for Cooley's release.
"Chris wants the opportunity to be a starter in the National Football League," Shanahan said. "I told him that Fred [Davis] was going to be out starter, but if he wanted to be a starter, I would give him every opportunity to seek that opportunity out."
Shanahan said that despite yesterday's releases, letting go of a franchise icon was that much harder.
"We know how much Chris meant to this organization, as well as this community, both on and off the football field," he said. "That's as tough as it gets.
"I know he can play, and hopefully he gets that opportunity."
The Redskins will move into the fourth preseason game with four tight ends remaining on the roster: Davis, Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen and Richard Quinn.
Davis, the starter moving forward, credited Cooley with his development at tight end over the last four seasons.
"[Cooley] helped me adjust my game a lot, so I definitely appreciate having him here and learning from him," Davis said. "Just watching him as a player and how he studies will be missed."
Cooley's future is uncertain, but he said he would take some time to consider his options before moving forward.
"It would be a tough decision for me to put on another [team's] jersey," Cooley said. "It's something I really never had to imagine, so for now, I'll take some time.
"I've loved every minute of playing here. I just want to say thank you to the fans. It's been a good ride. It's been a pleasure."