There was a bit of an event with the Arizona Cardinals offensive line on Saturday. The left side had some changes.
The left side was never supposed to be an issue with Jared Veldheer and the return of Jonathan Cooper, but apparently Cooper has not recovered as quickly as the team has hoped.
The first we heard of it was when the team's head coach, Bruce Arians, was asked about Earl Watford and the right side of the offensive line. Arians said that Paul Fanaika has been great and just wasn't giving the right guard starting job up. But it was next that raised eyebrows.
"Earl's playing at a real high level right now," Arians said. "Earl's going to push Coop."
That took on new meaning when, at practice, Watford was splitting reps on the first team at left guard with Jonathan Cooper. Arians was serious.
"I'm a bit disappointed at where Coop's at right now," Arians told the media. "I had hoped he would come along faster to get back into the full speed of the game."
At the moment, Arians didn't seem to make much of it, noting it was just "rust" from not having played in almost a year. But Arians said that "we need to see that special player that we drafted, that we had last year."
A special player is what they hoped for, an elite talent. General manager Steve Keim put expectations near Hall of Fame level.
Cooper understands what his head coach means.
"I have my ups and my downs, I just have to make sure I'm more consistent," he said after practice. "There are some times where I'm showing flashes and I feel and look like the old player I was prior to being injured, but then there's sometimes when you can look up and say, 'that's not the guy we picked up.'
"I have those moments when I am feeling pretty good and I'm like, ‘Alright, I'm over the hump, I'm good to go,' but then there's just those reps where it's like 'the old Cooper would have done this or done that or been able to make this move or that move'"
He says the trial will test his character and the flashes are his encouragement. He knows he needs to be patient.
When he was talking to reporters about the topic, it was obvious he was disappointed. He was hurt that he was "demoted." but he has the right approach. He is working hard, being patient and self aware.
Is it cause for concern? Perhaps a little, but for now we might be seeing a new competition the rest of camp.
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