Pats’ Cooks is here, but doesn’t think he’s arrived

Staff photo by TOM KING Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks talks to reporters during a media session at Super Bowl LII at the team's headquarters in Bloomington, Minn.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Brandin Cooks can’t get himself to say it.

He can’t get himself to say that he’s finally comfortable and good to go in the New England Patriots offense. Or, as someone said, “arrived.”

“No,” he said. “I just don’t feel like I’ve arrived. That’s my mindset. I feel like there’s a lot more that could be done. That’s what I’m going to keep pressing to do.”

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels – who next year will likely be game planning to stop Cooks if as expected he’s named the new Indianapolis Colts coach after Sunday’s Super Bowl – chuckles when he hears Cooks say he’s not yet “arrived”.

“I love Brandin Cooks,” McDaniels said. “There’s not too many people we’ve been blessed to coach that are a better human being, better teammate that have made the impact he has. He works as hard as any player I’ve ever been around.”

And Cooks hasn’t been here that long, arriving in early March from the New Orleans Saints in a trade for this past year’s New England first round draft pick. Cooks finished the regular season with 65 catches for 1,082 yards and six TDs, about 100 yards, one TD and 13 catches less than a year ago. The Patriots zeroed in on him, as the deal was rumored for a couple of weeks.

“I didn’t listen to the rumors,” Cooks said. “I have a ton of respect for coach (Saints’ Sean) Payton and Mickey Loomis (Saints general manager) for how they handled it. I should be thankful for how they handled it. I’m blessed to be in this organization now, and there’s no bad blood, and I have a ton of respect for (the Saints) still.”

Cooks was so uncomfortable answering the question about the deal that he said he didn’t remember where he was or how he found out. “You’d have to ask coach Belichick that,” he said. “But I have a ton of respect for Coach Payton and Mickey for how they handled it. They put me in a position to succeed with a great coach, great quarterback, great teammates, so I should be thankful for that.”

Cooks said that to switch teams and offensive styles “You’ve just got to be a student of the game.” But he said there’s one thing in common: the coaches he’s played for are top notch.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Both are great coaches. Sean was a great coach and helped me a lot when I got into the league and now that I’m here Coach Belichick is doing the same thing, helping me become a better player.”

He won’t get into a comparison of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the Saints’ Drew Brees, but he knew as soon as he got traded he needed to work with Brady on getting things squared away.

“I think it’s beena long process, since the day we met in the off-season,” Cooks said. “I think it’s growing day-by-day, every single practice, every single game. The great thing about it is, we have another chance to grow that trust.”

While hard working, and seemingly quite, Cooks gives you the impression he can be a good communicator on the field.

“I try to be,” he said. “I don’t go out there just talking to talk. But when something comes up and when something needs to be said, I say it. And if not, I keep going.”

Cooks may not be too talkative, but he loves his surroundings as he’s preparing to play in his first Super Bowl.

“It’s been an absolutely great time,” he said. “The fans, the area, the teammates, coaches. Talk about a blessing, being in a special place, this is definitely one.”

Cooks said the week has been great.

“The opportunity, the whole week, that’s how you have to look at it,” he said. “You don’t know if you’ll ever get this chance again, that’s how you have to take a look at it.”

So his attention is on one thing.

“Playing in this system, playing for this franchise, that’s where my focus is,” Cooks said. “We just keep battling. Coach does a great job of putting us in that mindset. As players, we go out there, and we just do our job the best we can.”

Cooks said he doesn’t know if he’ll see many one-on-one matchups from the Eagles. “We’ll find out at the start of the game,” he said.

Cooks said he never sets numerical goals as a target for a great season. “I’ll reflect on that when I’m done playing,” he said. “I don’t think I’d ever say I’d have a great season.”

But when does he think he’ll arrive? Sunday would be a good place to start.