METAIRIE, La. – Saints' rookie Brandin Cooks is trying to make up for lost time on fresh legs.
After missing the first two weeks of OTAs and minicamp, Cooks caught a short pass Thursday at New Orleans' last offseason practice and sprinted 50 yards to the end zone — with no one is chasing him.
Cooks missed earlier workouts while taking classes at Oregon State. He is back with the team for the first time since rookie minicamp. Cooks is still getting up to speed in the offense, but the first-round pick has no problem showing skills that earned him the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football.
"The thing that jumps out about him is clearly the speed," linebacker Curtis Lofton said. "Every time he runs a route, it looks like he's been shot out of a rocket."
The hardest part for Cooks, who ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, was slowing down after a month away from the team.
Of course I was anxious to get back out here," he said. "During walkthrough they had to stop me a little bit from sprinting."
Getting up to speed with the Saints' offensive scheme has come more easily. While at Oregon State this past month, he spent about an hour each day reviewing the playbook on an IPad. He also watched the video of each practice from the OTAs and the minicamp.
Although the routine was no substitute for live practices in New Orleans, it beat doing nothing. About 15 credits away from a degree in human development and family sciences, he chose to balance football and academics a little longer because he promised his mother he would become the first person in their family to graduate from college.
Cooks said he wanted to be able "to get some one-on-ones done and go against the vet," but he had his academic obligation. Still, he feels good where is at when it comes to football.
"I don't think I'm behind at all," Cooks said. "I just have to keep studying. I have to get used to the new terminology."
Cooks is coming off a phenomenal junior year when his 128 catches were tied for the 12th most in NCAA history and his 1,730 receiving yards ranked 15th all time, earning him the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football. Believing he played larger than his diminutive size (5-feet-10, 189 pounds) the Saints traded up seven spots to grab Cooks, giving up their second-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals.
The Saints had to wait a little while for the first return on their investment, but coach Sean Payton liked what he saw this week.
"Like any young player, you are quickly giving them as much information as you can and he is handling it well," Payton said. "Overall he has really picked things up really quickly."
Before training camp begins in late July, Cooks plans to work out with Saints quarterback Drew Brees at his offseason home in San Diego to replace the practice time he lost. With the Saints trading running back Darren Sproles to Philadelphia in March, he drew instant comparisons to him due to their similar size and quickness.
Payton has no intention of lining up Cooks in the backfield, though.
Cooks modeled his game after wide receiver Steve Smith, who spent the last 13 years with Carolina before signing with Baltimore in the offseason. Smith's 836 career catches rank 25th in NFL history.
"I love the way he's physical, how diverse he is, the way he is able to run routes and he plays with that chip on his shoulder," Cooks said. "I feel like that's what I'm trying to do."
NOTES: The Saints are off for the rest of the summer beginning training camp on July 24 at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.V. . Payton excused some veterans from Thursday's final OTA practice, which was moved back a day after he canceled Tuesday's workout to take the team on a Paintball excursion. The list of absent players included starting guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs and running back Pierre Thomas.
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