GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jonathan Cooper says he’s ready to go.
The Arizona Cardinals’ left guard has not played in a game since breaking his leg in the team’s third preseason game last August. After finally getting a chance to step back on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium and practice with his team, he declared himself ready to go.
“It was awesome,” he said after day one of training camp. “I felt a little better than I did at OTAs, a little bit more comfortable. I think it just helped to be able to read and react, not be thinking so much. Just go out there and play, it felt pretty good.
“It will definitely be a different story once pads get on, then it will be the true test. But for now, I’m pleased.”
For sure, Cooper will not really be able to know how ready he is until he is asked to hit somebody and, in essence, do the very thing that led to his injury in the first place. He’s had plenty of time to get ready for and think about this moment, having spent all of last season on Injured Reserve unable to contribute.
But now he’s back and expected to solidify a revamped offense line. The seventh pick in the 2013 draft out of North Carolina, the only questions surrounding Cooper are related to his health, not his ability.
Cooper added that Saturday was his “litmus test” as far as telling how far he’s come in his recovery, and since he felt great then, he’s excited to continue forward with his progression, with the next step being putting the pads on and dealing with contact.
Only then will he know he’s truly back.
That will happen Monday. Until then, just as it was Saturday, Cooper and the team will go through practice without pads on but in front of fans. It’s the first time that’s happened for him since the injury.
“It’s exciting, just trying to play for the guys beside me and having fans there, that definitely boosts the morale of the practice,” he said. “It felt great to get out there.”