GREEN BAY – It was appointment television anytime Jared Cook was on a flight back from an afternoon game and the Packers were playing in prime time.
The veteran tight end would watch Aaron Rodgers’ every move. He took note of how he commanded the huddle, controlled the pocket and threaded pinpoint throws regardless of whether he was rolling left, right or throwing off his back foot.
Studying Rodgers’ game, Cook figured he’d seen nearly everything from the quarterback when he signed with the Packers in March. Then, the 6-foot-5, 254-pound tight end stepped on the field for the first time with the two-time NFL MVP.
“Now that I’m here to see it in-person in practice, it’s even more incredible,” said Cook during the first public practice of organized team activities on Tuesday. “I find myself still in awe of some of the things he does.”
Since his signing, Cook has had a lot on his plate in trying to absorb a vast playbook with few parallels to what Jeff Fisher employed during Cook’s previous stops with the Titans and Rams.
Even the small similarities, such as the same terminologies, can have opposite meanings. So far, Cook has been diligent in working with first-year tight ends coach Brian Angelichio to pick up the offense and learn the nuances of Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s no-huddle scheme.
The opportunity to get on the field this week during OTAs represents another chance for Cook to connect the dots in preparation for training camp.
The spring sample size is small, especially during non-contact drills, but Cook’s large catch radius and speed come as advertised. That’s what stands out to anyone who watched him take the field on Tuesday.
When you unearth those attributes in a tight end, it can mean only one thing for opposing defenses: mismatch.
“I think anytime you can control the middle of the field, that helps,” Angelichio said. “It puts defenses in a bind how they’re going to play coverages and dictate matchups obviously in the red area. You see the trend throughout the league. Those guys are difference-makers if you have one of them.”
A part of the acclimation process is developing a rapport with Rodgers, who has been one of Cook’s biggest advocates this offseason. The two connected soon after his signing and got to work in hastening the transition.
After leaning heavily on Richard Rodgers the past two seasons, the Packers feel they’ve found a weapon who can both complement the young tight end’s skill set and bring an added dimension to the offense.
“It’s been fun to get to know him,” the QB Rodgers said of Cook. “Jared brings a good skill set to that group. Richard was very consistent for us last year. He’s great at a lot of things. Jared is able to stretch the field a little bit with his extra speed.”
Signing with Green Bay was the perfect marriage for Cook, who has caught passes from a dozen quarterbacks in his seven-year career and has yet to play in the postseason.
Coincidentally, the Packers are one of only two teams, along with the Patriots, to advance to the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons.
When asked if it was Rodgers alone who sold Cook on the Packers, Cook said it was the organization as a whole.
“They stress the details here,” Cook said. “I’m getting used to that stuff. I guarantee you a lot of these guys can teach me a few things on ways of longevity and postseason play, and striving for greatness.”
Cook has 273 catches for 3,503 yards and 16 touchdowns over 107 regular-season games, but has largely flown under the NFL radar. He believes Green Bay’s offense could be a catalyst to taking his game to the next level.
Still only 29, Cook is looking forward to beginning that journey and finally being on the receiving end of those Rodgers’ passes he watched so fervently from afar.
“I look at it as a clean slate, a fresh start and a new piece of paper to write a story on,” Cook said. “I’m excited for the opportunity that’s ahead of me and I’m going to do the best I can.”