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Jonathan Cooper Must Work, Wait

Posted Sep 3, 2014

Notebook: Larsen set to start at guard; Mathieu gets to hit

Guard Jonathan Cooper sets on a play during the final preseason game in San Diego.

In what might have been the least surprising news Bruce Arians has given, the coach confirmed Wednesday that Ted Larsen is the Cardinals’ starting left guard to begin the regular season.

Jonathan Cooper, the team’s No. 1 draft pick a year ago and rising star when he broke his leg in a preseason game, is on the bench.

“With my performance and injuries and the time I’ve had off, I have not earned that spot,” Cooper acknowledged. “I understand what they are doing.”

Getting Cooper back on the field, barring an injury, could be a difficult task. Arians said Cooper “is going to be a heck of a player.” He was not, however, putting any timelines on when heck might arrive.

“It’s very hard now to get an opportunity because you only get in pads one day a week,” Arians said. “It’s hard unless somebody gets hurt.

“His play before the injury wasn’t stellar. He was looking for a guy who’s coming back off a year’s injury. … It’s just a matter of time.”

Cooper, who suffered a bad turf toe just as he was trying to secure his starting spot in the first preseason game, said he’s tried to keep a positive attitude throughout his comeback. He’s had talks with linebacker Sam Acho, who suffered the same injury last year but has had a much different (i.e., better) training camp. He’s stayed away from social media, where the critics can get loud.

“They just want me to continue to improve and be the player they drafted,” Cooper said. “I felt like last year I was on the verge of being a pretty good player. So get back on that track and work to be a great NFL player.”

EXTRA WORK, BUT NOW THE WEEK STARTS

With the Cardinals opening on Monday night, the “regular” week of practice doesn’t begin until Thursday when the team will don pads and do its only real hitting of the week. For a Sunday game, that heavy practice is usually Wednesdays.

But that doesn’t mean the Cardinals were not practicing Wednesday. The team had practiced Tuesday and Arians said the option would have been there to make Wednesday a non-practice day with the Cards scheduled to go on the field Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“We could have technically had (Wednesday) off,” Arians said. “Talking with the veteran players, they wanted to practice. We had a short, crisp, very fast practice. We’ll just go right into the week now that it’s a normal game week.

“It was good work for two days. We got better.”

BIG DAY COMING FOR MATHIEU

Safety Tyrann Mathieu will hit Thursday for the first time and how that turns out – and how Mathieu and his rehabbed knee reacts – will go a long way in determining if Mathieu plays in the opener.

“He’s got to tackle some people,” Arians said.

Asked if Mathieu will be a game-time decision, Arians said “I’ll know way before then.”

That doesn’t mean he’ll let everyone will know before Monday. “No,” Arians said with a grin. “Probably not.” 

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