TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals opened their final session of OTAs Monday, shrugging off the scorching desert heat as first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper moved in at the starting guard spot on the revamped left side of the team's offensive line.
Cooper said he came into the offseason workouts expecting to compete for a starting job after Arizona chose him out of North Carolina as the seventh pick overall in this year's draft.
The 6-foot-2, 311-pound lineman would start alongside left tackle Levi Brown, who was sorely missed a year ago after he tore his right triceps in a preseason game and sat out the entire season. Installing Cooper at left guard means that Daryn Colledge shifts to the right side.
"It's getting a little bit easier every day but I'm really still trying to focus on learning the playbook," Cooper said after Monday's workout. "The physical aspect will be there, but I'm really just trying to be more of a technician and more mentally sound."
Cooper has been in Arizona for all the OTAs, as well as separate workouts for the rookies.
"He's getting so many reps he can't help but improve," coach Bruce Arians said. "He's had a lot of things thrown at him, a lot of different looks defensively, but he's holding his own. He's not a rookie anymore. He's already had enough snaps to be a sophomore."
Of course he and the rest of the team have yet to don pads for the new Cardinals coach.
Cooper said it's the mental aspect that's so different from what he dealt with in college.
"Just the playbook, there's so many components to it," he said, "so many layers, so many different calls, so many different situations that you're in that you have to be prepared for. I feel like that's been the toughest part of the transition."
Although he has yet to sign a contract, Cooper said it's important for him to be on hand for every offseason workout.
"If I want to do what I have plans to do, then I have to be here," Cooper said. "I can't afford to miss time. That's really not an option for me."
Colledge, who started at left guard most of his career, with a few snaps at center, said he understands why the Cardinals want to keep their first-round pick on the same side of the ball where he played at North Carolina. Colledge, entering his ninth NFL season, said it's a challenge to move to the right side but he is intent on making it work.
"It's just one of those things where you've got to get the fundamentals down," he said. "I think it's an easier transition at guard than it is tackle. The stance isn't quite as staggered. For me, I'm really just switching hands and kicking my feet a little bit. It will come slow but it will come steady and hopefully by camp I'll be in a good flow."
The offensive line struggled mightily, with injuries to Brown and center Lyle Sendlein compounding the problem. But Arians has repeatedly said that the line wasn't in as bad a shape as was perceived when he arrived. Bobbie Massie played much better in the second half of last season as a rookie and returns to the right tackle spot. Nate Potter, whose insertion into the offensive line as a rookie at left tackle coincided with the team's improved play up front, adds depth. Arians said Potter may be able to move inside and play some at guard, too.
Monday's session was the first of four days of OTAs, with temperatures expected to hover at 100 degrees, perhaps higher, near the end of the practices, which conclude shortly after noon.
"Oh I love it. Who doesn't love this heat, right?" Cooper joked.
He said he just has to put the issue of how hot it is out of his mind while he's on the field.
"And it's only going to get warmer," Cooper said, "so I'm really just trying my best to stay focused on what I can control."