Before the Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper in the fall of 2018, their homework on him was so in-depth that they even quizzed his college coach, Alabama's Nick Saban, regarding whether Cooper "loves football.''
Satisfied with the answers, they made the 2018 trade, giving a first-round pick to the Raiders.
Still satisfied in the 2020 offseason, they made another commitment, an on-paper $100 million contract for Cooper.
Now, despite his status as a perennial Pro Bowler, is Dallas suddenly dissatisfied?
“I get a very strong feeling that internally there, they really don’t want to be dealing with (his issues),'' reports Yahoo Sports’ NFL insider Charles Robinson via “You Pod to Win the Game.” "He’s banged up multiple games, he’s not practicing, he’s got soft-tissue problems. It’s this, it’s that. I really truly feel, there is going to be a strong focus on him internally there. Like, ‘OK, we’re paying this guy like he’s an elite No. 1 receiver and we can’t continue to have, he’s this banged up or that banged up, this problem or that problem.''
Robinson was just in Oxnard, so his information comes from a face-to-face visit. And he's a trusted media voice on NFL matters.
Does that make his source right in being frustrated?
We know there are members of the coaching staff who wish that Cooper was healthy enough to practice, as he is instead on PUP as he rehabs slowly from minor ankle surgery in the offseason. We assume the front office would like to see its investment pay off as well.
Cowboys at Chargers: The 'Here We Go Again' Trap
Does a dark cloud again hover over The Star?
Cowboys at Chargers: A 'Next Man Up' Problem
Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End …
Big NFL Reveal: Where Is HBO's 'Hard Knocks' Going Next?
The long-time HBO docuseries is taking a step in a new direction.
Of course, once the games start, the investment does pay off.
In nine games in 2018, he had 53 receptions for 725 receiving yards, six touchdowns. He's continued to pile up Sunday stats in the ensuing years despite the fact that nagging injuries - like his present one - often prevent him from practicing fully.
Also part of the Amari picture: He is the opposite of the so-called "receiver diva,'' to the point where he might be too "mellow'' (and maybe even too "thoughful'') for the tastes of some coaches. That caused some to wonder if he "cares.'' But privately, those inside this organization who know him to not question his toughness or his conditioning.
So Robinson is right in the sense that the people in charge of the team want to see this offense hitting on all cylinders every day - including in camp, though that won't happen for Cooper, Dallas says, until after we leave Oxnard and return to The Star following the preseason game at Arizona.
And as it regards anybody questioning "Cooper's future with the team''? That's surely accurate, too, as there is an escape hatch in his contract that allows Dallas to divorce him (and his $20 mil salary) at a dead-money cost of $6 million - the sort of move that could lead to the Cowboys opting to pay free-agent-to-be Michael Gallup around $12 million APY to stay on as CeeDee Lamb's sidekick.
But that is a spring-of-2022 decision. For now, Dallas has every reason to believe in the decisions it has already made, the one powered by Saban and made with the Raiders, and the one powered by a $100-million belief and made with Cooper.
A belief that gets rewarded most every Sunday. Just not on random Tuesdays and Wednesdays.