Steve Keim: Jonathan Cooper has to understand how to manage playing in pain

AP

The Cardinals drafted guard Jonathan Cooper seventh overall last season, but haven’t seen much return on that investment.

Cooper missed all of last season with a broken leg and eventually worked his way back onto the field this summer only to see a case of turf toe slow his progress. Now Cooper is running with the second team while Ted Larsen prepares to start at left guard, a situation that’s left Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim hoping that Cooper can figure out a way to play when he’s less than 100 percent physically.

“The guy had a tremendous career at North Carolina, and to my knowledge was never hurt or ever had a significant injury. So now this offseason, he’s had to deal not only with a significant lower-leg injury, now he has a significant turf-toe injury. Turf toes can be major issues,” Keim said, via the Arizona Republic. “I think it’s going to come down to the fact that he’s going to have to feel comfortable getting back on the field and, on top of that, a guy who has never been hurt is going to have to understand how to play and manage playing in pain. That’s going to be awkward for him, but the most time he is out here … he’s just going to have to get used to it. He understands that. It’s sad because we all have such high expectations. I’m disappointed in the injuries; I’m not disappointed in the player.”

It’s hard enough for young players to transition to the NFL when they’re totally healthy, which makes Cooper’s situation a doubly difficult one. He needs playing time to improve, but the injuries make it hard to give him that time and leave him right back at square one.