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John DeShazier: Saints rookie Brandin Cooks returned to practice fresh and fast

NCAA rules kept him away from workouts

Teammates immediately took to calling Brandin Cooks "fresh legs" when he arrived for OTAs this week, a not-so-subtle dig at the New Orleans Saints' first-round draft choice that was forced to miss much of the offseason work with the team because of the NCAA rule that prevented him from being in New Orleans with the team.

But watching Cooks run during Thursday's final practice – the last time the Saints are scheduled to work together as a team before they reassemble and travel to training camp at the Greenbriar in West Virginia in July – was an illustration on just how fresh, and fast, the rookie receiver is.

Suffice to say, he's fast enough to put the "jet" in "jet sweep."

"They've been grinding for about three weeks and I come in the last couple of days," Cooks said sheepishly Thursday.

Now, it's a matter of how quickly the former Oregon State star can pick up the intricacies of the Saints' offense from now until the regular-season opener in Atlanta on Sept. 7.

"I've been extremely comfortable, due to the fact that I was able to go over plays with Coach Carter (Sheridan) in the mornings, three times a week, getting the playbook down," said Cooks, who huddled with Sheridan via computer. Cooks hadn't been with any teammates since he participated in rookie minicamp in May.

"(But) I was real comfortable getting back," he said.

Said Coach Sean Payton: "He was here all week. He's doing well. Like any young player, you're quickly giving him as much information as you can and he's handling it well.

"In a portion of today's practice, we did some specific things with regard to three-receiver sets that involved him. Overall, he's really picked things up very quickly.

"For him, what you try to do with a young player is give him certain elements, so it's not keeping the progress of the overall offense back. But you try to begin to see how much they're able to retain and then continue to build on that."

Cooks said his inclusion on the fly sweep reminded him of when he ran the play at Oregon State, using his speed (4.33 seconds in the 40) to outrun opponents.

"You hope that whenever you add speed to the field it stretches the defense, both in the passing game and the running game," Payton said. "It'll just be finding that balance and fitting it in to what we're doing."

But largely, the learning process will continue for Cooks, who won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver last year, when he caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"The vets all helped me out throughout this time, so it's all been good," he said. "It was just fun to get with the offense and get it going against the defense, some of those veterans over there, and just get myself acclimated with the game of football at this level."

Top 10 photos of Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks from 2014 Rookie Camp. Photos by Michael C. Hebert.

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