The news didn’t sound good Saturday when the Browns spoke about receiver Amari Cooper’s groin injury. However, if nothing else, the good news Sunday was that the receiver was on the buses with the rest of his teammates as they left for Pittsburgh for Monday night’s game against the Steelers.
Cooper sustained — “aggravated,” in coach Kevin Stefanski’s words — the groin injury during Saturday’s practice. If he didn’t join the team on the trip to Pittsburgh, he would’ve had to be ruled out according to NFL rules.
The fact he made the trip at least leaves a glimmer of hope for Cooper to play, as small as that glimmer may be. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early Sunday afternoon that it remains “unlikely” the veteran receiver will play against the Steelers.
Should Cooper ultimately be ruled out for Monday, it would mark his first missed game since Nov. 25, 2021, against the Las Vegas Raiders while with the Dallas Cowboys. That was the second of back-to-back games he missed.
“It’s football,” receiver Elijah Moore said Saturday. “You can’t control what happens to who, so you just got to be ready. That’s why everyone studies how we study and know what we know, so we can go out there and perform if something like this happens.”
Moore, acquired in a March trade with the New York Jets, would figure to become a much more important part of the offense than he already is should Cooper not play. So, too, would tight end David Njoku, who had two catches for 24 yards in a season-opening 24-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals
Njoku had a career-high nine catches in last year’s Week 3 home win over the Steelers, while the 89 yards was the second-highest single-game output for him. The seventh-year pro has 30 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns in 10 career games against Pittsburgh.
“I go into every game thinking that, but I know he’s excited for the opportunity,” tight ends coach T.C. McCartney said Saturday of Njoku’s chances for a big game. “He played well last year, both games versus these guys. So anytime it’s a rivalry game, I think he’s geeked up and ready to play.”
Cooper has traditionally been ready to play throughout his nine-year career since the then-Oakland Raiders made him the No 4 overall pick in the 2015 draft. He’s only missed four regular-season games out of possible 123 in his career heading into Monday night.
Outside of the two games Cooper missed with the Cowboys in 2021, he also missed two for the Raiders in 2017: Week 13 against the New York Giants and Week 15 against the Cowboys. He’s played in all four possible playoff games in his career.
Cooper played the final month of last season with a core muscle injury he sustained the Friday before the Browns’ Week 14 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals. He underwent surgery in February that limited his participation in the offseason program.
The first week of training camp in July, Cooper suffered a “minor tweak” that sidelined him for a few days. He did go down in the first quarter after slipping on the turf and grabbing his knee, but was back in on the next series.
Cooper, in a May interview with the Beacon Journal, spoke of why he tries to play through injuries. He pointed back to his sophomore year at the University of Alabama, when, in his words, he was “benched” for a time due to an injury.
“I realized those couple weeks that I got benched that this is not what I really want,” Cooper recalled in May. “This is not what I really want. … I might be hurt, but I can play. I never want to give a guy an opportunity because that’s how jobs get taken. And so I vowed to never let that happen again.”
Chris Easterling can be reached at [email protected]. Read more about the Browns at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/browns. Follow him on Twitter at @ceasterlingABJ
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Amari Cooper travels to Pittsburgh with Browns, remains questionable