Jonathan Cooper hasn't yet lived up to the No. 7 overall selection that the Cardinals spent to bring him aboard in 2013. He missed his entire rookie season due to a broken leg, and he has started in only 11 games over the course of the last two seasons.
Still, he believes he has the ability to tap into his talent now that he's landed with the Patriots. Cooper was dealt to New England, along with a second-round draft pick, in exchange for defensive end Chandler Jones earlier this week.
"I feel like the biggest thing is I can’t really focus on what outsiders think," Cooper said on a conference call with reporters when asked about managing the expectations that come along with being a high draft pick.
"It’s about yourself and your organization. That’s the most important thing, and for myself, I know that there’s been certain talent instilled in me that I just have to put together and I know that there’s . . . I hate to use the word but . . . potential.
"There’s the potential there to be a great player, but it’s just a matter of it kind of all coming together and I’m happy for this opportunity. As for the organization, I’m just excited for the ability to kind of plug in and just help the team so as far as everybody else’s expectations, you can’t let that affect you. Because whether you’re doing good, bad, or ugly somebody’s always going to have something to say but as long as your teammates, the people inside your organization, working on being a team guy and really just trying to help the team as best as you can, then I feel like that’s really all I can do."
Cooper could compete for a starting spot in what is a relatively deep group of interior offensive linemen on the Patriots roster. Last season, the team used both Bryan Stork and David Andrews at center. The majority of the playing time at guard was split between Josh Kline, Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason.
As he acclimates to his new surroundings, Cooper will work under Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia who is back in the fold after two years in retirement. Cooper sounded optimistic that Scarnecchia could be the coach who helps him get the best out of his ability.
"I haven’t had too much interaction with him prior to this point, but I have heard nothing but good things from him," Cooper said. "Even going in and training [Thursday] with other players -- they say that he’s such a great coach, and he’s old school, and he’ll get on you a little bit but the guys love him and that you won’t have a better teacher than Coach Scarnecchia."
Here are a few other quotes of note from Cooper's conference call on Thursday:
On if he has a "nasty" side on the field: "I do have that and it’s one of those things that you learn that when you’re bigger than everybody when you’re younger you should be gentle, be nice, and it’s one of those things that you kind of have to learn that it’s nothing personal. It’s just business. So when you finish somebody at the whistle at the end of a play, it’s nothing personal. It’s within the rulebooks. But it’s just those little things that kind of show like, ‘He’s nasty, you don’t really want to mess with him.’ I do feel like I have that."
On suffering a season-ending broken leg as a rookie: "It was definitely a learning experience. I’m a firm believer that God has a perfect plan for everybody, so it happened and now I’m here. It was one of those things where it happened and it was kind of an unfortunate event, but now I’m here with the Patriots and have a great opportunity to kind of almost transcend that event. It’s almost like redemption."