FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When New England Patriots offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper looks back on the first three years of his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals, the turning point is obvious -- his broken leg sustained in the 2013 preseason months after he was selected No. 7 overall in the draft.
“Things since I broke my leg haven’t quite been where I wanted them to be,” Cooper said Tuesday during an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio with hosts Alex Marvez and Kirk Morrison.
The mental challenge of overcoming that injury has been a significant part of Cooper’s struggle (he’s played 24 games, with 11 starts), and it was something he detailed on the radio program from the CAA Football Camp in Atlanta.
“You get a whole different mindset when you’re out there working hard, you’re healthy and you’re playing the best ball you can -- the only hard mental parts are the playbook and knowing the game. When it goes beyond the field, and when it comes to that mental stuff, that’s when it gets more difficult,” Cooper said.
“That’s really where I had to improve. That’s where I feel like I am continuing [to improve] and have improved right now.”
The 6-foot-2, 312-pound Cooper, whom the Patriots acquired in March along with a second-round pick from the Cardinals in exchange for pass-rusher Chandler Jones, lined up at right guard with the top Patriots offensive line in spring practices.
Mentally, he’s feeling good as he hopes to put the first three years of his career behind him.
“It’s just one of those things, you’ve worked hard and things just haven’t seemed to fall your way. Honestly, it’s more of a mental thing than anything else. I feel like the biggest thing is the actual fresh start with a new organization and being able, from this day forward, to rewrite my history and be a better player than I was before,” he said.
Along those lines, Cooper relayed that he had been “turning over every stone and trying some different things” in hopes of turning things around before the trade to the Patriots.
So in that sense, the trade was welcomed.
“Fortunately, I was kind of getting ready for a period of change. I was getting ready to cut my [long] hair, trying to do things a little bit differently,” he said on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “So this was kind of falling into place and right into line with being prepared for change and handling it the best I could. …
“I think it’s more getting the mental aspect right. I feel like I’m there now. Honestly it’s getting your mind wrapped around, ‘Yes, you had some hurdles to get over but it was meant for you and that’s your destiny in order for you to be the player you’re supposed to be.' That’s honestly the biggest thing, getting my mind right and understanding that it’s part of the process.”