Tebow: Cooper 'trying to move forward'

New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow, left, talks to former Florida teammate and Philadelphia Eagles receiver Riley Cooper after a preseason game Friday in Philadelphia. (Photo by The Associated Press)

Published: Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 9:15 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — Tom Brady walked over to his locker, wiggled his way through a media horde, as usual, and smiled. It seemed like any other postgame for one of the NFL's premier quarterbacks.

But things might be changing a little bit with the New England Patriots. On this Friday night, after the team opened the preseason schedule with a 31-22 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the mass of media types didn't want to talk to Brady. They wanted the guy with the locker right next to him.

Tim Tebow.

"You don't need me," Brady said with a laugh. "So, I'm just going to duck on out of here."

Indeed, the former Florida Gator quarterback was the marquee attraction. He turned toward the cameras with his patented perma-smile and answered questions regarding his New England debut with typical Tebow precision. He entered in the second quarter, completed four of 12 passes for 55 yards and engineered two scoring drives. So, most people wanted to talk about his results.

But once the horde moved on to other Patriots, Tebow was able to sit down, relax and talk about another time in his career that means so much to him: his tenure in Gainesville and the many friends he garnered along the way.

One such player is Riley Cooper, a wide receiver for the Eagles, who found himself embroiled in controversy last month when a video of him saying the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert went viral on the Internet, and led to a team-issued fine. Tebow and Cooper practiced together all week at the Eagles training facility in South Philadelphia.

"It was so busy, and so crazy out there, we're both trying to get ready for the season, so it was tough to connect during the week," Tebow said. "But yeah, I was able to speak with him after the game tonight on the field. It was good to see him out there, good to see him playing ... and smiling."

Cooper, who had 248 receiving yards and three scores in Philadelphia last season, received a mixed reaction when he took the field in front of his home fans, many who he will have to win back. He had one catch for 19 yards in limited action.

"Nervous? Yeah. I was nervous," said Cooper, who underwent sensitivity training this month and will likely be a target of fans when the Eagles take to the road this season. "But I'm nervous before every game. It was just good to get out there, run around and get in a game situation."

That won't be as easy this year for Cooper, certainly not like it was when he and Tebow led the Gators offense. Not only are the Eagles in a rebuilding mode, one that will include growing pains under new coach Chip Kelly, Cooper also needs to be in the right mental frame of mind.

Tebow, for one, thinks Cooper is on his way toward the latter.

"I can't speak for him, obviously, but he is trying to move forward, to understand his mistake, and he's trying to grow," he said. "He appears to have the right support system in place. And I know that he appreciates everyone that is praying for him."

And of course, Tebow is one of those.

"I didn't spend as much time with him as I would have liked to this week. It was a busy time, and all of our goals are to get our work in, and do the best we can to help the team that we're with. But you do want to keep those players close to you. Riley's definitely one of those," Tebow said. "We were all really, really close in college, and it's fun to see them now, especially at this level. We need to all make it more of a priority to get together more in the offseason.

"We definitely had a great thing at Florida."

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