From Comcast SportsNetWASHINGTON (AP) -- Captain Chaos fought to hold back the tears.Chris Cooley, the longest-tenured player on the Washington Redskins and easily the team's most colorful character, was saying goodbye."I appreciate everything," Cooley said with a sniffle, his voice starting to waver. "I'm sorry. I'm a baby. I appreciate everything you guys have done for me. I guess, finally, just to say thank you to our fans. It's been great. Thank you."The Redskins released their two-time Pro Bowl tight end Tuesday, a few hours after creating some special teams chaos of their own by cutting kicker Graham Gano and replacing him with Billy Cundiff.Talk of field goal percentages quickly gave way to the stunning realization that No. 47 will no longer occupy his customary space near the back corner of the locker room."He helped me get comfortable with this team & this offense. He is a legend in my mind and will be missed. Thank You Chris Cooley," tweeted rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III -- and he's only known Cooley a few months.Coach Mike Shanahan said the decision came down to a matter of playing time. Fred Davis, who had a breakout year in 2011, has emerged as the new starting tight end, relegating Cooley to utility duty as a backup at both fullback and tight end during preseason."He wants to start. He wants to play," Shanahan said. "And we'll see if he gets that opportunity."Cooley did not take questions at the end of his impromptu speech to reporters. He said recently that he wanted to start, but that he was also at the point of his career that he wanted to win after missing the playoffs in six of his eight NFL seasons.Shanahan said Cooley's release wasn't about health or money. Cooley appeared in only five games last season after trying to play before sufficiently recovering from offseason left knee surgery."I thought he practiced well, he played well (in preseason), and I think he's got an opportunity to start in the National Football League," Shanahan said. "I think he's healthy."Cooley, whose Pro Bowl seasons came in 2007 and 2008, was also one of the most expensive players on the team, due 3.8 million in salary this year and 3.85 million in 2013."We never talked about a reduction," Shanahan said. "We never talked about anything like that. I'd never do that to a guy like him."Shanahan conceded that cutting Cooley is a "risky move" because Davis would be lost for the year for another violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. Davis was suspended for the final four games of last season after failing a drug test.The coach didn't rule out having Cooley return if the 30-year-old tight end can't find a suitable team elsewhere.For his part, Cooley seemed unsure what to do with himself."I have every belief that I can play football," he said. "I have every belief that I can be not only a productive player but a starter in this league. I'm very confident in my abilities to continue to play the game. It would be a tough decision for me to put on another jersey. It's something that I really never had to imagine, so for now, I'll take some time and make sure what I do in the future is exactly what I want to do."Gano's release came one day after he appeared to win the kicking job, and two days after Cundiff was cut by the Baltimore Ravens.Gano had stood at his locker on Monday feeling excited and looking forward to the season after his lone competition in training camp, Neil Rackers, was sent packing when the Redskins made their first round of cuts.But Gano's numbers have never been impressive. He has made 73.8 percent of his field goal attempts since joining the Redskins (No. 25 in the AP Pro32) late in the 2009 season, the second-worst rate in the league over the past three seasons.Gano, 25, missed 11 attempts in 2010, tied for most in the NFL. He had a league-high 10 misses last season, although five of those were blocked. He beat out Rackers without attempting a field goal in the Redskins' preseason games, coming out ahead based on his performance during practice.Cundiff's statistics are only marginally better. The 32-year-old kicker has a career field goal rate of 76.7 with the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore. He joined the Ravens during the 2009 season and went to the Pro Bowl season in 2010, going 26 for 29, but last season he missed a potential game-tying, 32-yarder against the New England Patriots in the waning seconds of the AFC title game.Cundiff also has limited range. He is 5 for 19 over his career from 50-plus yards, including just 1 for 6 last season. He was cut Sunday by the Ravens, who opted to go with rookie Justin Tucker. The Redskins called as soon as Cundiff cleared waivers."It obviously was an interesting situation, and I think there's really no other way to put it," Cundiff said. "For me, obviously, a tug of emotions. When you start to see what I accomplished in Baltimore, and then to have the door kind of shown to me a little bit earlier than I thought -- then to have a team come up right away and say they'd like to have my services and they were going to make a move."Shanahan didn't offer much of an explanation for his kicker change."We just thought that was the best move for us at this time," the coach said.
BRIGHTON, Mass. – Ryan Spooner quickly ticked off face-offs as one big area that needed improvement headed into his second full NHL season with the Bruins and the speedy young center has most definitely put in the work thus far in camp.
Still, it didn’t translate in Spooner’s first preseason game in Wednesday night’s lopsided loss to the Red Wings as he finished 4-for-16 on the draw, and to add insult to injury: he also served a two-minute minor penalty for a face-off violation that led to a power-play goal.
The skilled center made up for it at the other end by setting up a score for fellow speed-demon center Austin Czarnik as Boston’s only goal, but he was again back out on the Warrior Ice Arena sheet working on his draws again Thursday.
“I wasn’t great on my face-offs [against Detroit] trying to cheat a little bit too much. I think I just need to maybe just bear down a little bit more,” said Spooner, who finished at a very lackluster 42.8 percent success rate on face-offs last season. “[I need to] not try to win them clean, maybe just tie them up a little bit more. I was just trying to cheat on those [face-offs], and it didn’t work.”
Clearly, the draws were a contributing part of the problem in the rough loss to the Red Wings and it’s something Spooner will need to iron out before he’s fully trusted by the coaching in the nitty-gritty situations late in games. That was obvious at times last season. It’s something Spooner wants to change this season when there’s so much competition at the center spot, with Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, Dominic Moore, Noel Acciari, Riley Nash and Czarnik all considered natural centers.
“When you start with the puck then the game is so much easier,” said B’s assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “For Spooner [face offs] are important. I don’t want to speak for Claude [Julien], but he does have the luxury now of playing Spooner with guys that can take draws in his place if he wants to go down that road.
“At some point he’s going to have to improve [on the draw]. I think he wants to [improve on the draw] and he’s working at it, but the numbers aren’t where they need to be for him obviously. That’s the challenge Claude has going forward, but I think he can still get out on the ice and help you, even if he’s deficient in the face-off circle, and if he has some wingers that can help him.”
Spooner has employed veteran center Moore to give him some pointers while the two have worked out together in training camp and, in theory, it should be a big help for the young third-line center. Moore is one of those trusted veterans that is used in key face off situations with positive results, and is a left-shot player who can show the 24-year-old the exact techniques to help him.
Spooner said that getting face-off tips from Bergeron or Krejci had a limit to its helpfulness because those are right-handed centers doing the absolute reverse technique that a left-shot center would employ. Moore downplayed his role as a bit of a face off mentor, but the statistics, and his reputation on the draw would indicate he’s got plenty of knowledge to offer a second-year player.
“There are a lot of little things in the game, face-offs being one of them, that you learn through experience, and you want to try to pass it along to help make the team better,” said Moore. “[Spooner] is eager to try and improve a little bit every day. Part of face-offs is trying to get an edge any way that you can because they’re such a hotly contested thing.
“It’s definitely not easy, but if you have the right mentality then you try and build it up. You just have to approach it on a daily basis, commit to it and try to improve as best you can.”
Like so many things in life it would seem face-off ability is about putting in the work as much as it’s about natural-born skill and Spooner is putting in the hours to be a more complete center and trusted part of the team.
The Bruins' lineup for Friday night’s preseason game in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena against the Red Wings will include players from both practice groups filling into a more veteran-laden B’s lineup in Motown.
The Matt Grzelcyk-Adam McQuaid pairing that wasn’t great on Wednesday night will get right back into it, and the John-Michael Liles-Brandon Carlo pairing that was so good on Monday night will get another look as well. Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Anton Khudobin, Dominic Moore, Joe Morrow, Riley Nash and Ryan Spooner will be the established NHL veterans along with McQuaid and Liles suiting up for Boston’s first road exhibition of the preseason.
Here’s the entire lineup, with Boston now serving as one of the last NHL teams that is yet to make any cuts from their camp roster: Matt Beleskey, Anton Blidh, Brandon Carlo, Colby Cave, Peter Cehlarik, Brian Ferlin, Alex Grant, Seth Griffith, Matt Grzelcyk, Jimmy Hayes, Danton Heinen, Anton Khudobin, Jeremy Lauzon, John-Michael Liles, Zane McIntyre, Adam McQuaid, Dominic Moore, Joe Morrow, Riley Nash, Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Spooner.
The Bruins will be traveling to Philadelphia for another preseason game on Saturday and that may perhaps be the first time B’s fans get to see returning World Cup veteran players David Backes, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask after they began practicing with the camp group on Thursday morning at Warrior Ice Arena.