Arizona's Cooper motivated to live up expectations

By BOB BAUM - AP Sports Writer
    2013-07-29 20:33

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - The highest draft picks in the NFL aren't usually guards.

Jonathan Cooper is an exception, and he expects to be exceptional.

Cooper, chosen seventh overall out of North Carolina by the Arizona Cardinals, went through his first training camp workout on Monday after signing a four-year contract worth about $14.5 million.

Now, he says his motivation is to live up to expectations, to prove to everyone that he's worth the money.

``Just being drafted that high, no matter what position, I feel like you feel immense pressure,'' he said. ``I know I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. I know there are a lot of people depending on me.''

The 6-foot-2, 311-pound lineman is the first guard selected in the top eight since Mike Munchak went No. 8 to the Houston Oilers 31 years ago.

Cooper, penciled in as Arizona's starting left guard, missed the first three days of training camp while his agent and the Cardinals wrangled over contract details.

He went through his conditioning test on Monday morning.

``Breezed through it, really,'' coach Bruce Arians said.

Then Cooper was immediately with the line for the starting unit for the morning walkthrough.

``I love his attitude,'' quarterback Carson Palmer said. ``He's a glass half-full, happy-go-lucky guy - smile on his face, loves football. It's hard to love football at the offensive line position in training camp. To come in and run the conditioning test right off the bat and then get thrown in on the first play with a smile on his face is what I like seeing.''

On Monday afternoon, he went through his first practice with pads.

``It was tough, as I thought it would be,'' Cooper said. ``I was pleased early on. I started fairly strong and I tailed off a little bit at the end, making a few errors.''

He said it was difficult waiting at home in Wilmington, N.C., while the Cardinals started camp started across the country.

``Anticipation, it kills me,'' Cooper said. ``(I) just start questioning `Will I be able to get back right in and plug back in? It's going to be tough. Am I conditioning myself? Am I pushing myself enough while I'm here at home? What do the rest of the guys think about me?' All that kind of stuff, that was really mentally taxing.

``But I came back and I have been surprised at myself and hopefully surprising some others.''

Center Lyle Sendlein said he didn't see any major mistakes from Cooper in the first workout. Sendlein already had been impressed with the big guard during offseason workouts.

``In the spring, I got the sense of him being a great technician,'' Sendlein said. ``He's got great feet and hands and he plays with good knee bend and he's a smart guy.''

That time in the offseason has lessened any impact of missing a couple of days of training camp.

``It definitely prepared me for the professional mindset, the way to go about practice, just what to expect and kind of not let that fear and doubt keep me from continuing to go forward,'' Cooper said. ``I definitely don't think I'd be prepared and ready to succeed had I not had those OTAs under my belt.''

The Cardinals are counting on Cooper to help solidify a line that's a major question mark entering Arians' first season. Two days before Cooper arrived, the coach criticized the line for making too many mental mistakes. Then the team lost right guard Daryn Colledge to an irritated nerve in his right leg during the first practice in pads on Sunday.

Cooper said he wants to focus on the mundane chore of just getting better at learning plays and improving his technique. The first-team All-American also wants to avoid getting caught up in the accolades he already has received in early reviews from his teammates and coaches.

``It comes down to trying to prove people right and not let people down,'' he said, ``so I can't really focus on the glitz and glamour aspects of it until I've shown them that I've earned this and I belong here.''

As a person, he's already impressed.

``I've only been around for a little bit but you can tell he's a good dude,'' Palmer said. ``He's a good person. He's going to be a great guy in the community. He's going to represent this organization very well. You can't draft guys like that high enough.''



AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org


Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

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