One of the Rams' unquestionable slogans during the 2017 season was, "We not me."
While wide receiver Brandin Cooks didn't quite use those words as he was introduced to Los Angeles media on Thursday morning, he came close enough to make it clear he'll fit right in with his new team.
"I'm just coming here humbly and I'm coming in here with the mindset of team first," Cooks said. "I know that can be so cliché, but that's how I believe that you build a better team is when you start to think about others' dreams and you're playing for other guys around you and not necessarily yourself. So, I just want to come in here and be the best that I can be, listen with my head down and go to work."
That appears to just be the kind of person Cooks is — a man of high character who happens to also be a very good football player.
"I have to tell you, I told Brandin — and I was honest when I told him — that if my son could grow up to be half as respected as this guy was during the vetting process I'd be a jacked father for sure," general manager Les Snead said. "So, that just lets you know what kind of kid this is."
"I'm more impressed to remember a player that's gotten so many positive things said about him from different people that he's been exposed to," head coach Sean McVay said. "So, I think in alignment with what we try to do and the players that we want in our building — you're talking about a special person and a special player."
Cooks has displayed his strong receiving ability throughout the early portion of his career, becoming one of just three active players to record at least 1,000 yards receiving and at least five touchdowns in the last three seasons. In all, he's caught 280 passes for 3,943 yards with 27 touchdowns in his four years as a pro.
But this is also the second time he's been traded in the last two years. He doesn't seem to harbor any hard feelings toward either of his previous organizations — the Saints and Patriots — saying he understands it's a business and he feels blessed to be a Ram. Plus, he praised the way New England head coach Bill Belichick handed the transaction.
"Coach Belichick gave me a call hours before it happened," Cooks said. "I have a ton of respect for him and we have a ton of respect for each other. You know, you hear horror stories — guys finding out [they've been traded] on Twitter or whatever. But at the end of the day, the way that they run things over there and the respect that we have for each other — he gave me a call and gave me a heads up."
In some ways, this trade to bring Cooks to Los Angeles was a long time coming. As has been reported in recent days, Snead confirmed the Rams had interest in making Cooks a part of McVay's offense dating back to last year when New Orleans traded him to New England.
"I think it started probably before the 2017 season, probably at the Combine [in] 2017. He was a Saint at the time," Snead said. "I do think — I'm not sure if this was true — but New England had a first-round pick and we didn't, so I think they won the trade that way.
Best photos of newly acquired WR Brandin Cooks. (Photos by AP)
"It started then and, obviously, continued into this offseason," Snead added. "Made a phone call to the Patriots relatively early in the game and we've been discussing it for a while."
And McVay admitted the urgency to bring in a player like Cooks increased after wide receiver Sammy Watkins departed for Kansas City in free agency.
"Les and really our coaching staff, and our personnel staff — we've had great dialogue in terms of kind of how we wanted to fill that void left by Sammy. And whether you're looking at it through the draft or some possible trades, credit to Les and being able to get that dialogue going," McVay said. "We've been a fan of Brandin's game for a long time. He's played in two offenses where I have a lot of respect for — [Saints head coach] Sean Payton and what coach Belichick and [Patriots offensive coordinator] Josh McDaniels have done consistently, so we're always studying their tape."
And what McVay's studied on Cooks made a lasting impression.
"[H]e fits kind of into any system. This guy can play," McVay said. "But I think specific to some of the things that we look for, the traits and specifics that we look for from our 'X' receiver — being able to take the top shelf off the coverage, being able to win on some underneath iso's when you're gettin bump coverage — he's put that on tape, really, over the last four years. And that was something that we were really excited about. And when we had the opportunity to potentially acquire him, we wanted to be aggressive about pursuing that."
Now that the Rams have completed the deal, Cooks is looking forward to getting going with his new teammates in pursuit of the ultimate goal. And that's where that strong, team-first attitude of his shines through once again.
"I think I'm just adding to another special room and a special offense not just from a player's standpoint, but character-wise — just coming in here and just having everyone's interests before mine and doing what I have to do to help everyone else be their best and vice versa," Cooks said. "Hopefully they will do the same so we can go out there and play together to win games."