GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jonathan Cooper said he passed a bit of a litmus test when he made it through Saturday's training camp practice without incident.
His next exam came Monday when he put on pads for the first time and got to hit others.
He passed that one, too.
"I had my ups and my downs, made a few mistakes, but I felt OK," Cooper said.
Cooper is penciled in as the Cardinals' starting left guard, just as he was last season after the team selected him seventh overall out of North Carolina. He's working his way back from a broken leg that cost him his entire rookie season, and while no one has doubted his ability or work ethic, there were questions -- even from the player himself -- about how long it would take to truly get over the injury.
As it turns out, Cooper was surprised at how easy it was for him to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Calais Campbell without any concern for his health or how his leg would respond. He said if you would have asked him during OTAs if there would be some reservations, he would have said yes. But it turned out those concerns went away as soon as the whistle blew.
"You're always a little nervous about what could, would, maybe happen, but I felt pretty good today."
That means from here on out, the story will no longer be about Cooper's return from a devastating injury. If the steps following his injury went from needing a scooter to get around to being able to walk, and then from being able to walk to being able to run, and from being able to run to doing the movements required of a player at his position, and then leaning on a defensive lineman and pushing people around, he's finally at a point where it's all about what he can do on the field.
"The next step is to just become a better player."