RAIDERS TE Cook re­fuses to give less than his all

Tight end de­fi­ant, re­silient in rough season

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - SPORTS - By Michael Gehlken Con­tact re­porter Michael Gehlken at [email protected]­viewjour­ Fol­low @GehlkenNFL on Twit­ter.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — An easy­go­ing tem­per­a­ment usu­ally ac­com­pa­nies Jared Cook dur­ing the work­week. He strolls into the locker room, bel­lows “What’s gooood?” with a friendly nod and glides to­ward a meet­ing room, cafe­te­ria or wher­ever else his des­ti­na­tion might be.

Not Fri­day.

Not on this topic.

Five games re­main in the 10th season of Cook’s NFL ca­reer. With a 2-9 record, it will be the ninth not to reach the play­offs. The Raiders tight end sat at his locker, a towel draped over his shoul­ders, de­tail­ing how he’s dealt with the dif­fi­culty of los­ing. De­fi­ance drenched his words. “You show your true col­ors when you’re tak­ing L’s,” Cook said. “Just be­cause we’re los­ing, I’m not a loser. I ain’t never no (ex­ple­tive) loser. Ever in my life, I ain’t no (ex­ple­tive) loser. But that’s just the way my ca­reer has gone. You put me one-on-one, I’m win­ning my (ex­ple­tive). I ain’t no loser.”

At age 31, Cook is on pace to set ca­reer highs in all ma­jor sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gories. He has 47 re­cep­tions for 609 yards and five touch­downs. He hopes the cam­paign will cul­mi­nate in his first Pro Bowl se­lec­tion, a dis­tinc­tion he con­sid­ers a child­hood dream. This past week, he re­ceived an honor per­haps more mean­ing­ful, as team­mates voted him their Ed Block Courage Award re­cip­i­ent for 2018.

The recog­ni­tion re­flects how Cook car­ries him­self in ad­ver­sity.

Amid a tri­al­ing season, his next op­por­tu­nity awaits Sun­day against the Kansas City Chiefs (9-2).

The last time the Raiders faced the Chiefs, in 2017, Cook fin­ished the game de­spite four lig­a­ment tears and chipped bones in his left wrist. He en­tered the De­cem­ber road meet­ing with pre-ex­ist­ing wrist is­sues. They wors­ened on a fourth-quar­ter hit, he said, re­sult­ing in his whole fore­arm swelling up postgame and a visit to an emer­gency room for eval­u­a­tion.

Cook de­ferred surgery to the off­sea­son, play­ing the fi­nal three games.

He wanted to fin­ish be­side team­mates and hoped to qual­ify for the Pro Bowl. He nar­rowly missed the lat­ter. As Cook ex­plains, the NFL worked down its list of starters and al­ter­nates at tight end in Jan­uary but still needed to fill out the position. He was told that In­di­anapo­lis Colts tight end Jack Doyle was ex­tended an in­vi­ta­tion be­fore him be­cause of their re­ceiv­ing yardage.

Doyle fin­ished with 690 yards last season.

Cook had 688.

“I guess the Pro Bowl for me comes from when I was younger when the Pro Bowl meant some­thing,” Cook said. “You have a Pro Bowl at­tached to your last name. That meant some­thing when I first got into the league and when I was younger in the ’90s, and they used to have (the game) in Hawaii. That was a big deal. And now it’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, but it’s still some­thing that’s a dream of mine from when I was a kid that I want at­tached to my name.

“I might never have ‘Hall of Fame’ at­tached to my name, but I could have a Pro Bowl.”

It would be his lat­est honor.

One day, when Cook’s ca­reer is re­flected upon, he will be men­tioned as the first tight end in NFL his­tory to record a 100-yard game with four fran­chises. He did so with the Ten­nessee Ti­tans, then-St. Louis Rams, the Green Bay Pack­ers and the Raiders last season.

This season, in the Sept. 10 opener, he to­taled a ca­reer-high 180 re­ceiv­ing yards ver­sus the now-Los An­ge­les Rams. He stands atop the sin­gle-game fran­chise re­ceiv­ing mark among tight ends in Ti­tans, Rams and Raiders his­tory.

Tight end Lee Smith cited Cook’s wrist in­jury last season as one rea­son that Smith thought Cook de­served the Ed Block Courage Award. Tight end Derek Car­rier had an­other ex­am­ple, point­ing to a pow­er­ful stiff arm Cook de­liv­ered Nov. 11, dis­card­ing Los An­ge­les Charg­ers cor­ner­back Des­mond King to the ground.

About a minute re­mained in the game.

The Raiders trailed 20-6 deep in their own ter­ri­tory.

“It’s easy for peo­ple to pack it up,” Car­rier said. “You have some­one who’s still com­pet­ing, bat­tling.”

Cook finds sat­is­fac­tion in th­ese mo­ments.

Ide­ally, here in De­cem­ber, he would be play­ing for the post­sea­son, not pride. But with the ex­cep­tion of his 2016 season in Green Bay, that hasn’t been his NFL ex­pe­ri­ence. So, he takes wins where he can. He uses his fam­ily for mo­ti­va­tion, he said, look­ing to pro­vide loved ones with more op­por­tu­nity. How he fin­ishes games and sea­sons is a re­flec­tion unto them. None of that makes los­ing eas­ier. “You laugh to keep from cry­ing,” Cook said. “The fans re­ally think the los­ing is bad, but once they’re in this locker room, they don’t get that (ex­ple­tive), bro. They don’t re­ally get a glimpse of how this (ex­ple­tive) re­ally af­fects your daily life, your in and out, your woes, your ups and downs, just your whole de­meanor. This (ex­ple­tive) can switch peo­ple up on you so fast, just in this build­ing alone.

“When guys go out there on the field, it’s not like we’re play­ing to lose. It’s not like we’re lay­ing down and, ‘Ahh, we’re go­ing to lose this game on pur­pose.’ Nah, we’re ac­tu­ally fight­ing our (tails) off. … But you’ve just got to find the lit­tle vic­to­ries. What are you get­ting bet­ter at? How are you get­ting bet­ter as a per­son? How re­silient are you? How much heart you got? If you con­tinue to go out there and play, your heart is go­ing to show to the world, so what are you putting on film to the world?”

Los­ing does not de­fine Cook.

His de­fi­ance does.

Rick Scuteri The As­so­ci­ated Pres

Raiders tight end Jared Cook is all eyes as he pre­pares to haul in a pass against the Ari­zona Car­di­nals on Nov. 18 in Glen­dale, Ariz.

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