He led the Cowboys in receiving yards in three out of his four seasons despite not possessing the loud personality that tends to come with being in the star-studded spotlight of a NFL receiver.
Cooper's actions on and off the field in Dallas seemed to convey nothing more than "just business," something the receiver finally admitted at his Cleveland Browns introductory press conference following the trade in March that sent him to the AFC North.
Now, as he enters his first season with the Browns, the 28-year-old is seen as the "old guy" in an offense where eight of the 10 players in the receiving corps are 24 or younger.
“That’s the position I’m in now,” Cooper said to Browns.com. “These guys look at me like an old guy. They pay a lot of attention to detail, and they know the importance of coming in every day and knowing their stuff and trying to perfect everything they do.”
Cooper, who dealt with a bruised rib and a lingering hamstring injury last season, took somewhat of a backseat to second-year receiver CeeDee Lamb. The Oklahoma product enters year three after leading Dallas in targets (120), receptions (79), and receiving yards (1,102).
Though Cooper's trade-dump departure left Cowboys fans scratching their heads - even as we've tried to explain the in-house view that in addition to his $20 million APY price tag, some questioned his effort level - one can find something positive in the fact that he brought a veteran mindset into the locker room alongside Lamb.
Cooper didn't mention Lamb directly, but says he now sees that leadership comes from experience, something he likely learned during his time with Lamb in Dallas.
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“A lot of leadership comes with experience and age,” he said. “It becomes easier and easier over time because, from what I see now, leadership is just experience. It’s so easy to lead once you have that experience because everything these young guys are going through, you either went through it or saw someone else previously on the team go through it, and you saw how the outcome was.”
It remains uncertain who will be tossing Cooper the football this season. Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson faces a potential lengthy suspension amidst multiple sexual misconduct allegations. The future in Cleveland for four-year starter Baker Mayfield remains clouded due to a crack in his relationship with the organization.
Regardless, outside noise has never seemed to knock the veteran mindset of a receiver like Cooper, who always seems to be one step wiser than his years.
You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7
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