Patriots

Brandin Cooks: 'A lot of respect' for former coach Sean Payton

Brandin Cooks: 'A lot of respect' for former coach Sean Payton

Brandon Cooks walked up to Tom Brady’s locker in a crowded Patriots locker room, telling the quarterback he played a great game. Brady put a firm hand on his new receiver’s shoulder and said “hell of a game. We needed that, Brandin. We needed that.”

For Cooks, the win over the Saints was especially sweet. The 23-year-old spent the first two seasons of his NFL career catching passes from Drew Brees. 

“I thank God for the opportunity,” said Cooks. “This time is special. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

PATRIOTS 36, SAINTS 20

Cooks appears to be a popular guy with his former teammates. Many of them sought out the speedster, exchanging handshakes, hugs and a few words. That included Brees and Head Coach Sean Payton.

“I said hello to him (Payton) before and after the game,” said Cooks. “A lot of respect there. It was good to see him. I wished him the best of luck.”

An NFL Network report from Sunday morning didn’t paint as rosy a picture. It said Cooks was concerned with his role in the Saints offense and that he didn’t think Brees had the arm to utilize him in the best manner possible. It also detailed a difference in opinion about Cooks worth. The receiver thinking he’s an elite player and deserving to be paid as such; the Saints disagreeing. Cooks didn’t want to get into that except to say “don’t believe everything you read.”

Cooks probably would have liked to have a bigger day. He was targeted just 4 times, catching two. One of those balls should have been a touchdown but Tom Brady couldn’t lead him far enough to the inside on a post. Cooks was demonstrative with the ball after but insisted all was well. The smile on his face a good indication he was shooting us straight.

“If you saw (the play), he got hit really hard, so for him to make that throw in the first place was amazing,” said Cooks. “ It’s all part of that game.”

With injuries continuing to mount, Cooks may find his role on in the offense grow even more. Rob Gronkowski went down with what the team is calling a groin injury and didn’t return, Phillip Dorsett left with what appeared to be knee trouble and also remained sidelined. Throw that on top of a hobbling Chris Hogan and the already hurt Danny Amendola (he missed the game with a concussion and a knee), and you can see why Cooks may find the ball more and more. Is he ready for it?

“I think things are progressing,”  he said. “I have to continue to come in here, focus and do whatever is asked of me.”

That's music to his quarterback’s ears.

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Injury report: Branch out, 10 Patriots questionable

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Injury report: Branch out, 10 Patriots questionable

The Patriots final injury report before their showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday includes 10 players listed as questionable and defensive lineman Alan Branch ruled out.

Branch, who hurt his knee in the Monday night loss to the Dolphins, missed three days of practice this week. Among the questionable are linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive lineman Trey Flowers, who didn't play against Miami. Tom Brady (Achilles), Brandon Cooks (hand) and Malcolm Butler (ankle) have been removed from the injury report. 

Cornerback Joe Haden (fibula) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (hamstring) among the Steelers listed as questionable. The full injury report:

Gronkowski quickly puts suspension behind him

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Gronkowski quickly puts suspension behind him

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski was not focused on the past or a lengthy press conference Friday. 

Speaking with the media for the first time since being handed a one-game suspension for his hit on Tre’Davious White two weeks ago, Gronkowski spoke for less than 2 1/2 minutes before declaring, “I’m out” and leaving the podium. 

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“I definitely learned about it, but I’m not really here right now [to talk about that],” Gronkowski said. “With the game Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’m just putting my focus on them right now. Definitely learned from the mistake that I made, for sure a couple weeks ago, the last game I played in, but we’ve got a huge game this Sunday. We’ve got a huge game as a team this Sunday, so I’m just putting all my focus into the Steelers this week.” 

The veteran tight end said that he was glad to be back practicing and playing, but tried to shift the conversation back to the Steelers when asked about the suspension. He declined to share whether he reached out to White after the late hit. 

Gronkowski’s return will be a welcomed sight for a Patriots offense that struggled last week without him. Tom Brady played his worst game of the season, completing 24 of 43 passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in New England’s loss to the Dolphins.