Amari Cooper received praise for his performance during the Raiders offseason program.
It was deserved. The second-year receiver was excellent in practices open to the press, working in precision with quarterback Derek Carr.
There’s clearly growth between passer and receiver, but Cooper himself has a spring in his step. He’s confident, comfortable with the Raiders and his place in the NFL.
In his own way, Cooper seems to be letting his guard down. Generally a quiet, private sort, the Alabama alum has been more talkative this offseason with teammates, coaches and, in an unexpected turn, the press.
Why the change?
“Probably just being around the guys for a longer amount of time,” Cooper said during the Raiders minicamp in mid-June. “I’ve never been the type of person who just walks into a building or a place that I’ve never been before and just be this outspoken person. I just like to chill out first. See how things are going.”
Things have gone well. Cooper burst onto the scene as a rookie, with 72 catches, 1,070 yards, six touchdowns and a Pro Bowl berth. It wasn’t perfect. He had 20 drops, per Pro Football Focus, a stat that was a rare detriment. Cooper also gritted out the year, fighting through a foot injury that nearly put him on injured reserve. Cooper never flaunted, or drew attention to success. He never complained or made excuses for a late dip in production, when many asked if he’d hit a rookie wall.
Cooper was limited physically, but never missed a game.
“I wanted to be productive for my team,” Cooper said. “I was always taught to give 100 percent of what you have, so that’s what I tried to do."
He enters 2016 a smarter player, someone coming out of his shell a smidge. How else does one explain his appearance on celebrity edition “Family Feud” -- it will air July 3 -- a boisterous program with comic host Steve Harvey?
That, as much as anything else, is proof Cooper’s opening up some in public. He’s certainly done that in Alameda.
“He is more talkative; you can just see it,” Carr said. “Like any rookie, he did it right. You just come in, shut your mouth and go to work and that’s exactly what he did. Everyone respected him. No one could ever say anything about his work ethic besides, ‘Man, he’s quiet.’ That’s the only negative thing you could say, and that’s not even a bad thing.
“He’s definitely more talkative this year and he’s just being himself. He came in the right way just as all rookies should. You just shut your mouth, go to work and just earn the respect. He did that right off the bat.”
Cooper carries on with that same drive, but a bit more life.
“I’m a lot more comfortable,” Cooper said. “I feel like I have a great feel of what it’s like to be a pro. I like my progress so far.”