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Cooper's First Day On The Job

Cardinals' top pick opens minicamp working at left guard and trying to compete


First-round pick Jonathan Cooper (61) jumps out of his stance during a drill Friday while fourth-round pick Earl Watford looks on.

In between their first two practices, the latest batch of Cardinals rookies took refuge anywhere they could around the locker room – as long as it was in the air conditioning.

First-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper found solace on the floor in front of his locker, sitting down and stretching before he even took his shoes off.

Friday was the guard's first taste of the NFL as the Cardinals began a three-day rookie minicamp. It was hot but it was what he expected.

"We got a lot of stuff thrown at us," Cooper said. "I feel like I did alright. Just need to make sure I get in good enough shape to run around at this deal."

The coaches pressed the gas pedal to the floorboards during the rookies' first day, keeping the pace of practice fast and showing the young rookies what to expect for the rest of the summer – and the rest of their career.

The players looked eager, sometimes too eager, coach Bruce Arians said. But this weekend wasn't about showing the coaches what they can do in shorts and a helmet, it was geared toward teaching the rookies the Cardinals' language.

And Cooper was looking fluent through the first day.

"He showed up in good shape and he looks like the player that we thought he would be," Arians said. "Offensive linemen, you really can't tell until you put pads on. He moves around just like we thought he would because it looks like the (Scouting) combine out there right now."

While most of the 35 players – which includes inexperienced second-year players such as defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin and wide receiver Kerry Taylor – are vying for a spot on the team, Cooper is trying to earn a starting job.

A few days after Cooper was drafted seventh overall, the Cardinals released guard Adam Snyder, all but penciling Cooper into the starting lineup. On Friday, Cooper played on the left side, where Daryn Colledge lined up in 2012.

"I want to work and compete for that starting spot," Cooper said. "I've got a long way to go. From learning my plays to getting in shape to just getting that mindset of being a professional football player. I got a long way to go but I am here to compete for it. I'd love to get that spot."

For the next few days, however, Cooper will be focused on adjusting to the pro game. It's a small sample of what the next few months will include, but he already sees a difference between college and professional football.

"Everybody's big, strong, fast," Cooper said. "And then what's expected of you. They give it to you and you're expected to know it like that. In college, you get more time to kinda get brought up to speed. But now it's kinda this is your time to earn your place and you got to do it quickly."

EXTRA POINT: The Cardinals signed four of their draft picks Friday. Running backs Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington, tight end D.C. Jefferson and wide receiver Ryan Swope all have four-year contracts. The length and money of the contracts are dictated by the collective bargaining agreement, making them a much faster process than they once were. The Cards have five draft picks unsigned, including Cooper.

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