Ashburn, Va. - Tight end Chris Cooley and Santana Moss are probably fighting for more than just their starting jobs with the Washington Redskins, they're possibly battling for roster spots.
Cooley missed all of last summer's work following knee surgery and had just eight catches, 65 yards and no touchdowns in five games.
The 33-year-old Moss got off to a strong start, but his performance dropped off markedly once he returned from a four-game absence with a broken hand. He finished with just 46 catches, 585 yards and four touchdowns.
Cooley, who turns 30 on July 11, understands the task ahead of him.
"I have a big challenge ahead of me in proving that I'm the player I think I can be and I'm still the player that I was," Cooley said. "I feel even if I'm not the guy . I'll still be a major factor on this team."
Fred Davis supplanted Cooley as Washington's No. 1 tight end with a strong 2011 season while the Redskins gave free agent receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan $28.5 million guaranteed in March.
Both Moss and Cooley have dropped about 15 pounds each in an attempt to get quicker, but there are still financial concerns clouding their situations.
Cooley ($3.8 million) and Moss ($2.65 million) cost the Redskins $6.45 million in base salary. The franchise was penalized $18 million on its 2012 cap by the NFL for frontloading contracts during the uncapped 2010 season.
They have been well worth their salaries since Cooley became a fulltime Redskins regular in 2005 _ the same year Moss arrived in Washington.
Other than 2009 when Cooley missed the final nine games with a broken leg, he and Moss were Washington's top pass-catchers every year for six straight seasons. They are one of the Redskins' top receiving duos in franchise history _ behind the tandem of Hall of Famer Art Monk and Gary Clark.
But that seems like a long time ago.
During coach Mike Shanahan's first press conference since the end of last season on April 25 first press conference he praised the new receivers and Leonard Hankerson, a promising 2011 rookie, while not mentioning Moss.
Despite all the indicators, Cooley and Moss say they aren't worried about their roles with the team.
Cooley had a Redskins tight end record 428 catches while Moss' 485 catches for Washington rank him behind only Monk, Clark and Hall of Famer Charley Taylor.
That said, while Shanahan has liked what he has seen from both players this spring, he has used the word "hopefully" when discussing the futures of Moss and Cooley _ who combined to catch 170 passes for 1,964 yards and nine touchdowns during the coach's Washington debut in 2010.
"I don't play worried about something," said Moss, who burned ace cornerback DeAngelo Hall for a long touchdown catch from rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III during Tuesday's minicamp practice. "You're going to get guys coming in year after year from college, from other teams, and when you have guys that played on the level (that Garcon and Morgan) played on, teams are going to want them.
"All that can do for you is to motivate you to be on that same level."
Notes: Coach Mike Shanahan said that Washington's rookies are due back at Redskins Park on July 16, more than a week before training camp opens. . Robert Griffin III said that he and a couple of his receivers, including Josh Morgan, are hoping to get together and work out during the five-week break. . Pierre Garcon had the catch of the day with a left-handed grab of a Griffin toss into the end zone.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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