The tenure of one of the most popular Washington Redskins players of this era ended Tuesday when the team released veteran tight end Chris Cooley.
Cooley has spent his entire eight-year career with the Redskins since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He represented the Redskins in the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2008 and played in 108 games for the team between 2004 and 2011.
"I'm very fortunate to have played for a team and a fan base that have embraced me like they have," Cooley said. "This team changed my life."
Cooley racked up 4,703 receiving yards during his time with the Redskins and caught 33 touchdown passes.
"We all know what Chris means to this organization," Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said during a press conference. "He's a guy that we've leaned on a lot since I've been here."
Shanahan said that Cooley, who turned 30 last month, wanted a chance to start in the NFL. He only played in five games in 2011 while suffering from complications after knee surgery and breaking a finger in mid-October.
While out, tight end Fred Davis was thrust into the spotlight and emerged as the team's starter. Cooley says he harbors no hard feelings toward the franchise and looks forward to contributing elsewhere.
"I think there's a lot in store for the future," Cooley said. "I'm so excited for what this team and this staff can accomplish." He also thanked the fans for their support during his tenure in burgundy and gold.
At the time of his release, Cooley was listed second on the team's depth chart at tight end behind Davis. Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen and Richard Quinn are the team's other tight ends.
Shanahan was quick to say that despite battling injuries last season, he remained one of the team's vocal and locker room leaders.
"Any time you lose a leader, other guys have to step up," Shanahan said.