TEMPE, Ariz. — Jonathan Cooper is not a rookie, but he may as well be.
The seventh overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft out of North Carolina, the left guard broke a leg in the team’s third preseason game and was forced to miss the entire season.
Now he’s back on the field looking to resume his career.
“It definitely feels good to be out here kind of building that camaraderie with the offensive line unit,” he said after the team’s Organized Team Activity Tuesday. “A little nervous at times, but it feels good.”
This isn’t the first time Cooper has been on the field since the injury, as he’s been taking part in the team’s workouts over the last couple of weeks. But to see him lining up on the left side next to free agent acquisition Jared Veldheer is a sight for sore eyes.
“They’re definitely expecting big things from us and hopefully we can do that,” he said. “I feel like we’re definitely building a relationship and starting to build a rapport now with the reps beside each other, so I think we can do some pretty good things.”
In fact, while the Cardinals project to have new starters a possibly four spots along the line, few seem to be concerned about the left side, which is quarterback Carson Palmer’s blind side. That goes to show the faith people have in both Veldheer and Cooper, though unlike the left tackle, Cooper is still very much an unproven commodity.
But he’s getting there, and the hope is he’ll get to prove himself this summer and then into the season.
“Don’t jinx it,” coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s good, it’s good. He’s battling. I wouldn’t say he’s 100 percent, but he’s real close.”
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Cooper’s progression, from the time he got hurt and then even over the last couple of weeks, has gone according to plan.
“As the days went by he got more comfortable,” he said. “You can barely tell he had a major injury last season.”
Goodwin added that the only thing the coaching staff is doing with regards to Cooper’s health is monitoring his snaps while trying to ease him back into things. But so far so good as far as the early returns on how the former Tar Heel looks.
But as Arians noted and Cooper agreed to, he’s still not fully recovered and back to his pre-injury form.
“No, no quite there yet, mentally or physically,” he said. “But I’m getting close, so I’m excited.”