“I could barely walk,” Cobb said. “We went out there to test it, and I jogged on the field, and the wind was blowing so hard, it was negative-3 [degrees] or whatever it was out there, and I told them I was good.”
Cobb, however, quickly realized he was wrong. He played all but 10 of the 61 snaps that day but was a non-factor. He didn’t catch a single pass in the Packers’ 30-27 win. The next two weeks, he was inactive. In all he missed three games -- two because of the ankle and one because of a hamstring injury -- last season.
He returned healthy -- or as healthy as he could be -- and had his best game of the season in the wild-card playoff win over the New York Giants with five catches for 116 yards, including three touchdowns.
It’s no wonder Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this offseason he wants to “get Randall the ball a couple more times a game.”
Part of that, however, is on Cobb to stay healthy.
“It’d be great,” he said. “I think the last time that happened was 2014, so hopefully I can have a season like that where I don’t have to worry about anything.”
If injuries are the only reason Cobb hasn’t matched his production from 2014, when he posted career highs with 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns, then perhaps the 26-year-old will indeed return to form -- even though receivers coach Luke Getsy said Cobb isn’t in need of a “bounce-back year.”
“One of the two most important abilities for any player in this league is durability and availability,” Cobb said. “I’ve had a little bit of an issue with that the last couple years being banged up and missing a few games, trying to play through games I probably shouldn’t have been in. That’s something I have to try to do. I have to try to stay healthy and do everything that I can."
A preseason shoulder injury in 2015 bothered Cobb most of that season, when he caught 79 passes for 829 yards and six touchdowns. Last year, his numbers dropped to 60 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games.
“I think bounce-back year, that comes from a stats perspective,” Cobb said. “I think when people watch the games, they don’t pay attention to that. They just look at the stats. I feel like if you go watch my film and watch the tape, there’s opportunities there. We have a lot of guys here and the ball gets spread around in different situations. I don’t know what to say. I had one of the highest catch percentages in the league, and I feel like those stats speak for themselves. I’ll let that noise be the noise, and I’m going to continue to do what I need to do to get myself into position to help this team.”
One of those positions might be as a punt returner after the Packers lost Micah Hyde in free agency. Cobb has three career touchdowns as a returner (two on punts and one on a kickoff) but none since 2012. He has been used only sparingly as a punt returner (and not at all as a kick returner) the past two seasons.
But Cobb says that’s not by choice.
“That was never my decision not to be back there,” he said.
So far in training camp, Cobb has been the No. 1 punt returner ahead of second-year receiver Trevor Davis.
It might seem like a risk to put a $10 million receiver back to field punts, but it’s either a sign the Packers want him to touch the ball any way possible or that his role on offense could be reduced with the emergence of Davante Adams and the addition of tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks.
“He’s obviously done it a high level for us,” McCarthy said. “Yes, he’ll be part of our return game.”
Cobb doesn’t see the punt-return job as an occupational hazard, saying “every injury I’ve had in this league has been as a receiver, not a returner.” But he must have forgotten the 2012 game against Tennessee in which he sustained an ankle injury on a punt return and missed the following week’s regular-season finale against Minnesota.
Either way, he knocked on the wood of his locker stall in hopes this will be a healthy season.
“I feel like I’m on top of it for the most part,” Cobb said. “I’ve had changes in my nutrition over the years. I’ve had changes in the philosophy of what I do with keeping my body healthy and recovering in different ways. At the end of the day, a lot of injuries I had are acute injuries. It’s not like it’s muscle injuries I’ve dealt with, besides the hamstring last year.”