The mystery injury plaguing Amari Cooper is a mystery no more.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy revealed Wednesday that Cooper “is still working through” an ankle injury. McCarthy is “hopeful” the $100 million wide receiver will be ready to return for the late-July start of training camp, per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News.
Cooper has yet to practice this offseason and his absence grew noteworthy with several other Cowboys WRs — Cedrick Wilson, T.J. Vasher, Stephen Guidry, Malik Turner and Simi Fehoko — also sidelined by various ailments during Organized Team Activities and in-progress minicamp.
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Cooper Previously Underwent Operation
On Jan. 7, the four-time Pro Bowl pass-catcher posted to Instagram a photo of his leg and, without providing specifics, indicated he had undergone successful surgery.
Shortly after the photo surfaced, Gehlken clarified that Cooper required a “clean-up procedure” after the 2020 season but “should have no difficulty being ready for whatever spring workout program the team may have.”
Cooper, who has an extensive history of lower-leg maladies, appeared in all 16 games last year, leading the Cowboys with 92 receptions for 1,114 yards and five touchdowns.
Gehlken reported in March that Dallas kept open an “exit door” this offseason by opting not to restructure his megadeal. He’s slated to count $22 million against the 2021 salary cap — or 10.5% of the club’s overall payroll. His $20 million base salary is guaranteed.
Cooper is signed through 2024, his age-30 campaign. If the organization opts to move on, they must reach a decision prior to the fifth day of the 2022 league year, when his $20 million salary for that season becomes fully guaranteed.
“Can part ways in early 2022 with just $6M dead money vs. cap,” Gehlken noted. “This one of big decisions looming at WR position. Michael Gallup in contract year.”
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Coop Called Out by Former Cowboys WR
Former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith, who spent his first two NFL seasons (1992-93) in Dallas, put Cooper in his crosshairs last month, criticizing the soon-to-be 27-year-old over his work ethic — or distinct lack thereof.
“I just wish there was a little more effort on Amari Cooper’s part,” Smith said on The Matt Lombardo Show, adding, “[Cooper] is a guy who is so talented, but the lack of effort really, really gets under my skin. Especially for what he’s getting paid.”
Cooper is entrenched as one of the sport’s top receivers, and arguably its best route-runner. But questions related to his “passion” have consistently dogged the former No. 4 overall draft pick, dating back to his time with the Raiders.
“I don’t think they think Amari Cooper has got great passion for the sport,” former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi said in October 2018. “I don’t think they think he loves football. That’s what I’m hearing coming out of that building. I think they’re worried about his contract moving forward. It doesn’t sound like they are interested in giving him that kind of deal so they’re going to tear this thing down.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL