Newly acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks introduced as a Texan.

Texans WR Brandin Cooks coming in to help the team win, not replace Hopkins

For the third time in four years, an organization introduced Brandin Cooks as the newest member of their football family. This time around, his introduction was drastically different. Instead of dressing to impress in a room full of local reporters, Cooks casually dressed in the comfort of his own home, as the Houston Texans welcome their newly acquired wide receiver during a virtual press conference via Zoom on Thursday.

After spending the past two seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Rams, Cooks, 26, was traded to the Texans in early April in exchange for a second-round 2020 draft pick — used to select Van Jefferson, wideout from Florida.

"The way I look at it, I am wanted and valued at a high level," Cooks said. "To be honest, I am blessed to be able to play with so many different teams, quarterbacks and organizations. I don't think of it as a negative, and I am a guy who can adjust pretty quickly. Wherever I go, I am going to ball."

Ingraining himself into a new system is a challenge all too familiar for Cooks. But similar to his press conference, Cooks must try to get accustomed to his new teammates in Houston virtually amid in the midst of a global pandemic. With training facilities closed, Cooks has taken the initiative to work out at his home, leading by example that this is not the time to relax but to stay ready.

"The most important thing is, whenever we are able to go back, I tell the guys is just be in shape and not taking this time as a time to relax or to sit back," he said. "Just because you never know when we're able to get back out there as a team so you want to be ready."

Right off the bat, Cooks clarified that his main goal in Houston is to help the team win, and not the standpoint of replacing DeAndre Hopkins' on-field production. While playing alongside two other receivers who share similar skill sets (Will Fuller and Kenny Stills), leadership and the lessons he learned throughout his six-year pro career is what Cooks is hoping to bring to the locker room in Houston.

"I think from a bigger standpoint, just a leadership role, just the way that I go about the game and my process, just being a veteran voice in that room with the special guys that are all the way around," he said. "I've been blessed and fortunate to play with such special quarterbacks. I look forward to just sharing that knowledge that I've learned from them with guys in the locker room."

Originally drafted in the first round (No. 20 overall) by the New Orleans Saints in 2014, the prodigy out of Oregon State University has recorded 5,730 receiving yards and 34 touchdowns throughout his career. With the Texans, Cooks will be able to add Deshaun Watson's name to an impressive list of quarterbacks he has played alongside — which includes two Hall of Famers Drew Brees and Tom Brady, as well as the two-time Pro Bowler Jared Goff.

While trying to learn his new quarterback through film, what excites Cooks the most is the similar characteristics he sees in Watson when compared to Brees and Brady.

"He makes every single throw just like those guys, and just from the little bit that I'm gaining from him, his process and his hunger and his drive and dedication is there as well.," he said. "That's what I've learned from those guys and saw from them every single day. So, I look forward to getting with him in person and really see that come alive."

In a world that seems foreign, the one familiarity Cooks has as he joins the Texans is his relationship with Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Jack Easterby. Prior to his two-year stint with the Rams, Cooks played one season with the Patriots in 2017 and bonded with Easterby — who severed as the then-character and team development in New England.

"I can't say enough about a guy like Jack Easterby and what he's meant to me and my life just in that one year that I got to know him while I was in New England," he said. "He's a special human being not just for me, but for my family, and to be reunited is definitely a blessing."

After recording over 1,000 receiving yards for four straight seasons, 2019 marked the first time since his rookie year Cooks failed to achieve the feat. He appeared in 14 out of the possible 16 games and posted 583 yards on a career-low 42 receptions. Determined to put aside the disappointment from last season, Cooks says 2019 does not represent the player who he is.

"I think there were a lot of nuances that was going on last year, not just for me but from a team standpoint," Cooks said. "We had a lot going on and at the end of the day, I dealt with some things on the field, but that does not go to show what type of player I am, the production I've been putting in year in and year out since I've been in the league."

"That was just one of those off years, but it comes with the game. That definitely is not the trend that you should be looking for from me as a player." — Cooks

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College football needs to call a timeout on the 2020 season.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 are set to announce, maybe today, perhaps in a few weeks, whether they will play football this fall.

Already the Ivy League, Mountain West and Mid-American Conference have canceled their fall football season for health and safety reasons amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Power 5 conferences – the Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference – should get onboard and put their football seasons on hold, too.

While some elected officials without medical degrees say that coronavirus amounts to little more than sniffles for young people, healthcare experts argue that college-age people, while they do recover quickly and may not exhibit symptoms, do contract and spread the virus.

There has been a 90 percent increase of young people testing positive for the virus in the past four weeks. More important, health experts say they can't measure the long-term effects of the virus, which may include brain damage, heart disease and reduced lung capacity.

There is a simple solution to play or not play college football this fall – postpone the season to next spring, when health experts will know more about the disease. There possibly could be a vaccine by then, which would allow fans back in stadiums.

Many high-profile college players and coaches weighed in on the debate Monday, almost unanimously saying that the 2020 football schedule should be played on schedule, starting in a few weeks.

Players, including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, adopted the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. In a tweet, Lawrence said that players would be more at risk for coronavirus if the fall season doesn't move forward. "We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football."

Lawrence added that, if the football season is canceled or postponed, players "will be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely."

Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN, "Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home."

Two points: University presidents should listen to only one group of people – healthcare professionals – when they decide whether to cancel or postpone the fall football season. Yes, players want to play during this pandemic. But players also want to play when they are injured or their brain was just scrambled by a vicious tackle. We applaud athletes who play with a broken leg. We see players with concussions plead with their coaches to put them back in the game.

As for the argument that players are more likely to catch the virus if they're sent home – who's sending them home? These are student-athletes. Students. Most college campuses will be open with students attending classes this fall. Major college programs like Clemson have 85 full scholarships designated for football. Colleges won't take away players' scholarships if the football season is canceled. Clemson's campus will open Sept. 21 for in-person classes.

ESPN college football analyst Greg McElroy also said the season should be played as scheduled: "If they're (players) OK, then I'm OK." Texas governor Greg Abbott chimed in on the players' side. He said, "It's their careers, it's their health."

What "careers" is he talking about? There are about 775 colleges that play football. Only 1.7 percent of all those players will play in the NFL or another professional league. On Sept. 3, Rice University will play Army. It is unlikely that any of those players will have a career in football. However, given the excellence of academics at those colleges, players will have career opportunities in something other than football. The average NFL career is 2-1/2 years. Rice and Army grads can top that.

The NBA is completing its season in a bubble in Orlando, with players confined to their hotels between games. Only 22 teams are in Orlando for the lockdown. The Rockets organization sent about 35 people, including coaches, players and essential personnel to Orlando.

Baseball is playing its season outside a bubble. So many players are testing positive for coronavirus that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred last week threatened to end the season if teams don't do a better job of enforcing the league's health protocol. What's left is an unbalanced season. For example, the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners have played 18 games, while the St. Louis Cardinals have played only five games. The ironically first-place Miami Marlins, which had 18 players test positive, have played only 10 games.

College football can't be played in a bubble. There are too many teams, with some having more than 100 players and 20 coaches. And no sport thrives on fans' excitement and marching bands like college football. Several colleges, including the University of Texas and Texas A&M, have stadiums that hold more than 100,000 fans. Even if college football could be played in a bubble, it would require isolating players from August to January, when they're supposed to be in class. I know … supposed.

This one is easy. For the health and safety of players, play the fall 2020 season in spring 2021.

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