Patriots

Cooks says he's not sure what to expect from fans in return to New Orleans

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Cooks says he's not sure what to expect from fans in return to New Orleans

FOXBORO -- This isn't a grudge match for Brandin Cooks. It's not about revenge. But when the Patriots travel to play the Saints on Sunday it won't be just another game, either, even if that's what Cooks might have you believe.

"It's just another away game," he said on Wednesday. "That's the way I look at it. Absolutely." 

What gave it away, the fact that there might be a little more to it than that? Cooks' reaction was telling when he was asked what kind of reception he might get in New Orleans on Sunday. 

"I feel like we left off on a great note," Cooks said. "I love the fans. But, hey, I don't know. It's an away game so you're expecting what away fans are going to give you, right?"

Statistically, it's hard to have a marriage work out any better than the one Cooks had with the Saints. Only three players in each of the last two years recorded 1,000 yards, 75 catches and eight touchdowns: Cooks, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. 

Cooks made headlines in December for a comment he made after seeing no targets in a game when the Saints bludgeoned the Rams, saying "closed mouths don't get fed." But any discord that may have existed in that moment have been wiped away with time, it seems.

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, Saints coach Sean Payton sang Cooks' praises as a good teammate and hard worker. Drew Brees acknowledged that he and Cooks are still good friends.

The feelings, Cooks said, are mutual.

"That's my guy right there," Cooks said of Brees. "That's family."

On Payton, Cooks added, "I've got a ton of respect for Coach Payton still, leaving off on a great note. I love him. He's a great coach and he did me well when I was there so there's no bad blood at all . . ."

"I loved every bit of playing there. They gave me an opportunity. First team coming into the NFL. Gotta respect that, respect the owners, [general manager] Mickey [Loomis], Sean for believing in me. There's a lot of great memories made."

Cooks is now trying to make a few early memories of his own in New England. He had a strong camp and performed well in the season-opener, reeling in three passes for 88 yards against the Chiefs. He also forced Kansas City defensive backs into a handful of penalties by using his speed to get by them. 

Off the field the accliimation process is moving along, too. The 23-year-old from Oregon is already a fan of Boston's North End, and he recently stopped by Harvard's campus in Cambridge. 

"The history . . . it's a special place," he said of his new home. "I'm across the country from where I grew up so it's neat to be able to get to know another place rather than where I grew up at."

Cooks knew New Orleans. He knew the food. He knew the people. (Especially the ones he'll share the field with Sunday.) While he doesn't know how he'll be received when he goes back, Brees thinks he has an idea.

"People liked him, respected him, he was a big part of our team and offense," Brees said. "Nothing but love and respect for him."

What gave it away, the fact that Cooks might care more than he lets on about his return to the Superdome? Once he heard what Brees had to say, the smile on his face was telling. 

"If Drew says it's going to be a good reception, it'll be one," Cooks said. "That's the king over there."

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

None of us thought Johnson Bademosi would be starting this past Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Jets because -- well -- that’s not what we perceive the 27-year-old to be. He’s a special teamer. It’s how he’s made his mark in the NFL dating back to 2012 with Cleveland. So why would that change in mid-October for a team he’s only been with for six weeks? Because Bademosi is -- and has always been -- intent on proving he’s more than a niche player.

“I see myself as a football player,” he said, “and whatever position they put me in, I’m going to try to be the best because that’s how I operate and who I am as a person. Whether that’s as a cornerback, on special teams, if they ask me to play wildcat quarterback. Whatever…”

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Bill Belichick and his staff asked for Bademosi to go on the field and not come off. He played 73 defensive snaps in addition to his usual core four special teams duties. 

“I felt like I played a whole game,” Bademosi joked, before saying, “I love playing football so I’m going to go out there and empty myself.”

He did just that, getting targeted only two times in the 24-17 win over the Jets. It was hoped that Bademosi would return to his normal specialist role, but with Stephon Gilmore still out with a concussion, it now seems more and more likely that the sixth year pro will have to be an ironman again Sunday night in primetime against the Falcons. Historically, the Pats have defended bigger receivers. That means Bademosi may be responsible for one of the most dangerous players in the league, Julio Jones.

“He’s an amazing player," he said. “We all know what he’s capable of. As a defense, we have to be prepared for him.”

The Pats were on Super Bowl Sunday and Jones still made a couple of ridiculous plays with either Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe in coverage with safety help over the top.

“He’s fast. He’s physical. He can jump. He can run. He’s smart. He’s everything you want in a wide receiver,” said Bademosi without blinking an eye. That’s the kind of confidence you want from a player at that position and facing this type of challenge. 

“You gotta believe in yourself,” he said “ I’m confident in my abilities. I work hard and trust my preparation.”

Being an elite athlete certainly helps. Bademosi was a scholarship football player at Stanford -- “some guy named Jim Harbaugh called” -- before ending up in the NFL. But it’s Bademosi’s willingness to go all in in the film room that impressed safety Devin McCourty. 

“…I think, honestly, the most work he did was probably with just himself jumping into the film, watching more stuff to exactly see,” said McCourty Thursday. “You know, when you’re a backup more, you’re kind of trying to see everything because you don’t know what role you might be thrust upon once you’re in the game. But, I think once he knew he was starting, it was kind of like, ‘Alright, let me focus in on this.’ I thought he did an awesome job of just being ready and competing.”

Bademosi will have to compete his ass off Sunday night, even against what has been to this point a physically compromised Jones. Based on what he did several days ago, there’s no reason to believe the Pats cornerback won’t bring everything he has, trying to prove again that he’s more than just a special teams whiz.

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