For about five seconds.
Long enough to ensure he won’t be getting a Christmas card from the Brady bunch.
Long enough to provide an emphatic soundbite that, nine months later, sets the table for a monumental matchup of the teams.
“No. I don’t want to play with Tom Brady. I want to beat Tom Brady,” Cooper said in February, reminds Jon Machota of The Athletic. “I want to play with Dak Prescott. And I believe that we can get the job done.”
Cooper’s anticipated shot at the Evil Empire comes Sunday at Gillette Stadium, where the 9-1 Patriots will host the 6-4 Cowboys in an interconference tilt with massive playoff implications.
The Pro Bowl wideout has faced New England only once in his career, and that transpired in 2017 when he was playing for the Oakland Raiders. For that game — a 33-8 Patriots victory — Cooper caught three passes for 28 yards and a touchdown.
His second test could prove to be as tough. New England boasts the NFL’s top-ranked defense in scoring and total yards and the second-best pass defense, which surrenders a stifling 152.6 yards per game. They’ve allowed just one opposing WR (Golden Tate) to surpass 100 yards this season.
But the Cowboys are hoping to fight fire with fire, bringing the league’s No. 1 offense in total yards and air yards to Foxboro for the nationally-televised contest. The unit is spearheaded by quarterback and MVP frontrunner Dak Prescott, who currently leads the NFL in passing, and whose favorite target is Cooper, the league’s fourth-leading WR (886 yards).
Together, the two have formed mesmerizing on-field chemistry which produces weekly works of magic. Cooper knows this now, and he knew it in February, too, dubbing Prescott a slam-dunk franchise signal-caller.
“Of course,” he responded in an interview with NESN. “You don’t see that? He’s a winner. I love Dak. He’s a born-leader from what I can see. He’s going to put it all on the line. In all the close games we had this year, he was the one making those big plays, leading us to victory. I just like everything about Dak.”
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Cooper’s Status for Sunday
Cooper is going to suit up against the Pats, but he may do so at less than 100 percent, the result of nagging lower-body injuries that he’s nursed throughout the season. His creaky knee reduced his usage in Week 11, when he made just three catches for 38 yards.
The Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken reported Monday that Cooper is “still fighting through” the knee ailment, indicating that discomfort remains. Dallas confirmed as much, listing the 25-year-old as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice.
For what it’s worth, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday he expects Cooper to start at New England, likely drawing the unenviable coverage of lockdown cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who’s collected three interceptions and 11 pass deflections.
Cowboys Mothball WR for Rest of 2019 Campaign: Report
Noah Brown’s third NFL season will go down as a wash. The Cowboys are shutting down Brown for the remainder of the year, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer.
Brown underwent knee surgery in June which forced him out of training camp and the preseason, and onto the Physically Unable to Perform list, where he’s remained since August. Per Archer, Brown recently had a second knee procedure, prompting the team to pull the plug.
A 2017 seventh-round draft pick, Brown has appeared in 21 games for the Cowboys, totaling nine receptions for 87 yards. Still only 23, the Ohio State product is under contract through 2020.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL