Jonathan Cooper had the unenviable task of having to watch his teammates play from the sideline for the entire 2013 season.
Cooper, the Arizona Cardinals’ first-round draft pick out of North Carolina last April, suffered a broken leg in a preseason game against the San Diego Chargers in August and was placed on injured reserve.
Cooper has been on the road to recovery ever since.
“The leg is coming along, it’s pretty good, I can’t complain,” Cooper told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “Every day, Monday through Friday, they try to have variations with me running, doing strengthening exercises, balance, all that stuff. But every day they find something different for me to do.”
Cooper is just about six months removed from surgery, but just because his rehab has gone smoothly doesn’t mean he’s ready to run out on to the field and perform right now.
“No shot,” he joked. “They always say ‘we’re in no rush, we’ve got plenty of time,” so I think what they’re going to try to do is just stretch this thing out and keep working me up until (organized team activities) so that they and myself are both supremely confident in my leg and my ability.”
Of course, recovering physically is only one part of the process for any player. Cooper is also dealing with the mental aspect of his rehabilitation. The second-year player says he’s not all the way back on that front just yet, either.
“Actually, about 75 or 80 (percent), because there are times where I don’t even realize it, but I’m not really trusting in that leg and not really pushing off with everything on that leg.
“I’m definitely coming along and each day I see improvement.”
Improvement is what Cooper will bring to a Cardinals offensive line that struggled at times in 2013. Cooper had a hard time watching from the outside.
“It was very difficult, especially initially,” Cooper said. “When I broke my leg, so many things were running through my head: how will this affect me down the road, how will I recover, I want to help the team, will they think less of me?
“So many crazy thoughts. But my team really rallied around me and supported me. They never isolated me and made me feel like less than a member of the team, so I feel pretty good about it now.”