Chris Cooley was so eager to take the field today that he almost forgot a simple pregame ritual like huddling up with his fellow tight ends and running backs in the tunnel leading to the Heinz Field grass.
After a quick head-butt from fullback Darrel Young, Cooley took a couple antsy steps towards the field before he was summoned back into the huddle by his teammates.
Cooley said he felt more like a rookie making his NFL debut on Sunday than a nine-year veteran playing a Week 8 road game against the always-tough Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It felt great for me to be back on the field," Cooley said after the Redskins' 27-12 loss to the Steelers. "I felt great; I had so much adrenaline, so much excitement for the game. I felt like I prepared well this week, and I felt very, very good."
Cooley, the Redskins' all-time leader in receptions by a tight end, was released by the team during final cuts just prior to its Week 1 game against the New Orleans Saints, but was re-signed early last week after a season-ending Achilles injury to starting tight end Fred Davis.
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said in the week leading up to today's game that the Redskins were fortunate to have a veteran like Cooley available who knows the team's offense so well.
"Chris was ready to play," Shanahan said after today's game. "I'm sure he went in there and did a good job. But, again, he's going to get better, I'm sure, every game.
"He'll get in better football shape each week. I think he'll feel more comfortable as time goes on, too, of being in that football shape."
Cooley, who said he had offers to play for other teams, said it just felt right to put on his burgundy and gold helmet and his familiar No. 47 jersey today.
"It was the best I've felt, ever," he said.
Cooley saw the field today in the Redskins' two-tight end sets. He was targeted once by quarterback Robert Griffin III, but the pass was broken up by Steelers safety Will Allen.
Cooley said he didn't figure he'd immediately factor into the Redskins' offensive game plan just yet.
"I didn't expect to have a huge impact on the game other than playing a role," he said. "I obviously knew going in that it wasn't going to be a huge production game for me, but maybe I could go in and help the team a little bit."
Tight end Logan Paulsen – who got the start today in place of Davis – said Cooley's veteran presence was felt on two plays specifically.
"It was really nice having him out there and his intelligence and his savvy," Paulsen said. "There were a couple times where the play comes in wrong and he's able to get everybody lined up because that's the kind of guy he is."
Cooley will have a homecoming of sorts next Sunday, when the Redskins play host to the Carolina Panthers. It's the annual homecoming game at FedExField, as dozens of Redskins legends are expected to be in attendance.
Though the fans will enjoy all Redskins alumni in attendance, one thing's for sure: the Cooley chant will be in full force next Sunday.
"I know that this is where I want to be, and where I should be," Cooley said. "To have the opportunity to be out there feels very good."