Amari Cooper has been a very productive player since coming into the NFL in 2015. He's reached 1,000 yards five times in six seasons. More specifically, since joining the Dallas Cowboys in 2018, Cooper has amassed 224 receptions, for 3,028 yards and 19 touchdowns in 41 games.
Cooper has shown a level of consistency that any team would value. However, even after grabbing a career-high 92 receptions in 2020 despite playing with four different quarterbacks, the four-time Pro Bowl selection wants the 2021 season to be his best yet.
“Just trying to be the best Amari Cooper that I can be, trying to be better than I've ever been,” Cooper said. “I've been talking to myself a lot lately about how I want this year to be different than any other year that I've played football.”
Throughout his career, Cooper has dealt with a plethora of injuries. Fortunately for the Cowboys, he has yet to miss a game in his two and half seasons in Dallas.
His current issue is with his ankle and it's plagued him for quite some time. He had a clean-up procedure in January and he didn't participate in OTAs or minicamp. Cooper hasn't seen any action during training camp either, however, his return isn't far away.
“I'm close to 100 percent,” Cooper said. “I wouldn't say I'm quite 100 percent yet, to be completely candid. But I'm real close. I can do everything, maybe a little better, just because I've been rehabbing so hard.”
The procedure Cooper had was to remove spurs that limited his flexibility. However, it didn't allow him to feel or notice the other ailment that he had going on.
“Because my foot was jammed up and not as flexible, I didn't really feel the other injury I had in my bone, the inflammation in my bone,” Cooper said. “But when they took the spurs out, my ankle got more flexible and I was able to really feel that injury, from what I understand.”
The Cowboy's top receiving option, according to team owner Jerry Jones, isn't expected to practice until training camp for the Cowboys comes to Texas in the middle of August. Keeping up with his conditioning and rehabbing his ankle has been the main focus for Cooper up to this point.
Any time an athlete is away from their sport for whatever reason, it makes them appreciate what an honor and privilege it is to be able to do their job. Cooper hasn't done anything significant on the football field since the Cowboys' 2020 season finale, and he's foaming at the mouth to get back out there.
“For me, it has just showed me how much I really want to be out there because I miss it so much,” Cooper said. “I've never wanted to run a route so bad.”
Another former Alabama wide receiver, Julio Jones, was an inspiration for Cooper playing at 225 pounds over the last few seasons after coming into the NFL at 212 pounds. Jones's ability to overpower cornerbacks was appealing to Cooper, but he's down to a lighter 215 pounds these days.
“I did it, it was cool,” Cooper said. “But I didn’t really notice a difference in terms of if it was harder to tackle me. I was playing the same at the line of scrimmage. Guys couldn’t really touch me. I just don’t feel like I need to be that big anymore.”
With Cooper shedding some weight it could lead to a faster version of him, which he mentioned earlier in the week.
“It's going to be like you might not even be able to see me run,” said Cooper. “I'm taking it real serious. I want this to be the best season I've ever had playing football. You can't just say those things. You can, but if you're going to say it, you better back it up, and that's what I'm going to do.”
Cooper has set career highs in receptions, yards, yards per catch, and touchdowns since putting on a Cowboys uniform. So, if he does have his best season in 2021 it shouldn't surprise anyone.