GREEN BAY – Randall Cobb knew as well as anyone that his 2014 season – 91 catches, 1,287 yards, 12 touchdowns – was going to be tough to repeat.
But his 2015 season was nowhere close to satisfactory in his mind.
Absent running mate Jordy Nelson and forced to deal with more double teams and bracket coverage from the slot, Cobb’s production dropped last year. A preseason shoulder injury factored into the picture as well.
His 79 catches far and away led the team, but his yardage (829) fell by one-third and his TDs (six) by half. Most telling was a drop in yards per catch from 14.1 to 10.5, a reflection of the struggle it was to find open space.
He’s never let on how long the shoulder injury lingered and probably never will, nor is he likely to dwell on any other obstacles – scheme, mental or physical – he may have been battling.
That’s Cobb’s way, and he’s now looking ahead, doing so with a something-to-prove tone in his voice.
“I’m really excited about this year,” Cobb said following Thursday’s open OTA practice. “There were a lot of things going on last year, but none of that stuff mattered. I didn’t perform at the capacity that I know I can perform at.
“At the end of the day nobody cares what you had going on. Did you play well or did you not, and I didn’t. I can be the only one to change that.”
Not getting the chance to fully atone in the playoffs has only added to his resolve. Following a TD catch at Washington in the wild-card round, Cobb bruised a lung making a spectacular diving grab on a deep ball the next week in Arizona.
The catch didn’t count due to offsetting penalties and Cobb was then spitting up blood on the sidelines, his day and season done. QB Aaron Rodgers has publicly stated he believes an NFL Films microphone battery pack, wired to Cobb’s back where he landed, caused the lung injury, and Cobb agrees.
“There’s no way of actually proving it, but I didn’t break or fracture a rib,” Cobb said of his fall. “I’ve said this multiple times – his theory isn’t anything new. It’s something we’ve talked about plenty of times. There’s no way to prove it, but there’s no way to disprove it either.
“I’ll never be mic’d up again.”
Cobb had worn microphones multiple times in the past, and he acknowledged that documented in-game sound becomes a great keepsake if the team makes a Super Bowl run, but he’s no longer interested in the risk.
“I’ve never had a problem with it before, and possibly it was just the way I landed,” he said. “I landed flush on my back with the battery pack on. You probably won’t land too often like that, but unfortunately, the one time I did, I had a bad injury from it.”
Since recovering, Cobb’s offseason has been full of good news. He got engaged, and he graduated from the University of Kentucky.
Upon returning to Green Bay, he began working with new receivers coach Luke Getsy, who introduced some new concepts in the playbook and new drills. Juggling footballs and/or tennis balls, to improve hand-eye coordination, is one example that was on display at the practice field.
While Cobb works his way up to juggling four balls at once – “I’m working on off-the-wall with three right now, so it’s a process,” he said – he’s also focused on “re-learning” the playbook with the changes that have been made.
He’s preparing to welcome Nelson back to 11-on-11 snaps anytime now, joking that he may start a “Free Jordy” campaign to get his receiving mate medical clearance.
Cobb’s approach to 2016 is no joking matter, though. He’s always been steadfast and serious in his preparation, and if his edge gets sharper as the season nears, the reasons are clear.
Difficult or not, 2014 is a standard he’s determined to meet.
“Whenever I come back here, it’s about business,” he said. “It’s about continuing to get better and help these younger guys come along.”
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