FRISCO, Texas – Before the season, Amari Cooper said that he believes he's the best wide receiver in the NFL and that he knows he has to prove it to everyone else. Since being traded to the Cowboys it's been Cooper's own body, more than any cornerback or defensive scheme, that has prevented him from proving that opinion to be true.
Around the time Cooper said that in September, he had missed the majority of the preseason recovering from an ankle injury. In the first six games of the season he has dealt with injuries to his hamstring and ribs that have required him to come out of games and miss snaps.
But he has kept coming back this season, and even if it was clear he was playing somewhere below full health, he has produced like one of the NFL's best. Cooper has brought in 30 receptions for 374 yards and four touchdowns and looks poised to record another 1,000-yard season, especially after the recovery of the bye week.
"I feel healthy," Cooper said on Thursday. "As close to 100% as I'll be. It feels good. The bye week always feels longer than a week, for the body at least."
Cooper said he spent the majority of the week letting his body rest while incorporating some stretching and running on the treadmill. Cooper's production while dealing with injuries has been symbolic of the Cowboys' season thus far, and it's not a great sign for the rest of the NFC. Having weathered various injuries and missed games for key players, the team is sitting with a 5-1 record, an apparently rested and healthy Cooper, La'el Collins' upcoming return from suspension, and perhaps the near return of another dangerous wide receiver.
Michael Gallup, who injured his calf in Week 1, has started his three-week practice window while on injured reserve. His return might not happen this weekend against Minnesota, but the prospect of having Cooper, Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb all on the field at the same time seems to be right around the corner.
"He looked good," Cooper said of Gallup in practice this week. "He hasn't been getting a lot of reps but in the reps he's been given he looks like Mike."
As far as the guy throwing him passes, Cooper seems to think the rest of the bye week did similar wonders for Dak Prescott, who injured his calf near the end of Week 6's win over the Patriots but hopes to play Sunday.
"I haven't really noticed that he's hurt," Cooper said of Prescott. "I don't even know if he's hurt. Throwing the ball to me, he looks regular."
The chemistry between Cooper and Prescott has been nearly flawless over the course of Cooper's career in Dallas, and their availability is the key to both Cooper's claim about his place among the NFL's best wide receivers and the team's potentially unlimited ceiling on offense. Cooper's disciplined route running is well-documented, and he says that Prescott will find him or any receiver when the offense needs to take the ball down field.
"Anything that can be accomplished on this football field, [Prescott] believes he can be the guy to accomplish it," Cooper said.