EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The day after the 2013 season ended, St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook marched up to tight ends coach Rob Boras' office for their annual exit meeting with a clear message on his mind.
Cook, who was the team's prized free-agent addition the previous March, had set franchise records for tight end production but couldn't shake the feeling that something had been missing. He felt like he hadn't done all he could to take the individual talent that's tantalized since he entered the league and turn it into consistent production. He had a similar feeling about the 7-9 finish that once again left the Rams short of the postseason.
"It was a cool year to start off with but I think it could have been a lot better," Cook said. "I think offensively we could have had more production. It’s just the little things, the little things that we missed out on out there last year that will separate us from being a playoff team or just another team."
So Cook entered Boras' office with a message that he wanted to relay to the coach and keep as a reminder. It was a simple message, two words in length but with much deeper meaning for the six-year veteran.
"When he came in, he talked about 'no regrets,'" Boras said. "I wrote it on my board that day and I’ve looked at it the whole offseason. He understands what he’s capable of doing and he didn’t feel that he lived up to it all the time. You see a different look of determination in his eye and it’s just that consistency he can bring every day. It can’t be a roller coaster ride for him. He understands that."
Through his first five seasons, four in Tennessee and one in St. Louis, Cook has seemingly been riding that roller coaster without taking a break. At 6-foot-5, 254 pounds with speed that would make some receivers envious, there never has been any question about Cook's talent. He's blessed with the physical ability to be one of the league's best pass-catching tight ends.
And Cook even spent time showing why that belief exists. In his first game as a Ram, Cook dominated Arizona to the tune of seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. It was the type of performance expected of him after the Rams signed him to a five-year, $35 million deal on March 13, 2013.
But as has been custom throughout his career, Cook struggled to replicate or even approximate that performance the rest of the season. After the eye-opening performance against the Cardinals, Cook became the focal point of opposing defenses with additional and more physical coverage thrown his way on a regular basis.
Cook didn't exceed 45 receiving yards in any of the next nine games and didn't score another touchdown until Week 9 against his former team. He finished with 51 catches for 671 yards and five touchdowns. But much of that production came in two games and Cook also struggled with drops, finishing with six for the season.
Put simply, Cook was unable to produce consistently. It's something Cook and Boras are working to remedy.
"It’s my job to remind him of it," Boras said. "It’s that whole mentality of one play at a time. I know it’s cliché but he just has to truly understand that. If you have one bad play, it can’t turn into four bad plays. You have to be able to let the plays go and have a short memory. That’s what we always have to remind him of. If one bad thing happens, we’ve got to let that one go."
It also didn't help Cook's cause when the Rams lost quarterback Sam Bradford for the season in week 7. Bradford and Cook had developed an easy rapport in training camp and though Kellen Clemens exceeded expectations in general, the Rams didn't throw the ball much. Having Bradford back should help Cook's efforts to find more consistency.
"Everything kind of slows down because you’ve got a different quarterback," Cook said. "But now that Sam is back, and as long as he stays healthy, this offense will go miles and miles."
Never known much for his blocking, Cook didn't offer much in that regard, either. He has spent time in the offseason and during camp working on staying lower and developing better leverage.
Beyond that, Cook says he'd like to have more catches and more yards than last year and earn a trip to the Pro Bowl beyond the usual team goals. With the Rams likely to center their offense around the run game, they don't need Cook to rack up 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns or any really gaudy numbers. They'd certainly welcome that, but all they really want is the same thing he does.
Most of all, Cook wants to live up two promises: the kind he made to Boras and the kind that often has been used to describe him since he was drafted.
"I made a promise to my coach last year to come into this season with a motto of ‘No regrets,’" Cook said. "So no matter what, how hard you play and how hard you go, you do whatever you can to help this team win."