Riley Cooper is trying to revive his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The former Philadelphia Eagles receiver is one of 56 players participating in the Bucs’ rookie minicamp this weekend, hoping to make a good impression and land a job after being out of the league for more than a year.
The 29-year-old spent six seasons with the Eagles before being released in February 2016. The Bucs spoke with him before last month’s draft and called last Sunday to offer a tryout.
“It’s a great opportunity and … I’m trying to make the best of it — go out there, try to make some plays, run around and kind of spread my knowledge to maybe some of the younger guys if I can be of any help,” Cooper said after Friday’s opening practice.
Cooper entered the league as a fifth-round draft pick of the Eagles in 2010. He has 169 career receptions for 2,418 yards and 18 TDs. However, his production declined after a breakout season in 2013.
That also was the year he made headlines when he was filmed shouting a racial slur at a concert in Philadelphia. Cooper said he doesn’t know if the incident was a factor in why no teams tried to sign him after his release from the Eagles.
“I am not sure; I am extremely apologetic about that,” the receiver said. “I have told everyone it was completely my fault and I am so sorry about it. That is not the type of person I am. And the people that know me, know that.”
The receiver, whose best pro season was 2013 when he had 47 receptions for 835 yards and eight touchdowns, played in high school in nearby Clearwater before heading to the University of Florida. He recently bought a home in Ocala, north of Tampa.
“I’ve just been fishing and working out to be honest with you. So, nothing too special,” Cooper said of his break from football.
“Obviously, I didn’t feel 100 percent out there today. One, my body is just kind of getting back into the routine of practicing and all that, and then it’s a new scheme, a completely new coaching staff. and you’re thinking a lot and trying to move,” he said. “It will take a little bit of getting used to. But like I said, I’m super excited about the opportunity.”
Cooper is among eight wide receivers participating in the three-day camp, including third-round draft selection Chris Godwin.
The Bucs bolstered a group of receivers led by Mike Evans by signing DeSean Jackson, Cooper’s former teammate in Philadelphia, in free agency.
To make the Bucs roster, Cooper would also have to compete for a job with holdovers Adam Humphries, Freddie Martino and Donteea Dye.
“I really didn’t get to watch him too much today, to be honest with you,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said.
“I’ll go in and take a look at it on the tape, but he’s a guy that we decided to bring in, take a look at. … A guy with size and experience and we’re looking to increase our depth at wide receiver,” Koetter added. “Now, we did address that in the draft and free agency, but we’ll see how it goes.”
First-round draft pick O.J. Howard said growing up in Alabama he followed Cooper’s college career at Florida.
“I didn’t know it was him until he introduced himself at the team meeting (Thursday),” the rookie tight end said. “I just told him what type of player he was. I really looked up to him growing up, so it was very cool to meet him.”
Cooper said it’s not humbling to find himself competing for a spot in rookie minicamp after having so much experience in the league.
“It’s an honor. An NFL team is giving you the chance to make their roster. I don’t think it’s humbling at all,” Cooper said. “I think it’s just a great opportunity, and like I keep telling you, you’ve got to make the best of it.”