Despite Attention, Cooper Rush Keeping His Focus On Earning A Roster Spot

FRISCO, Texas – Like any undrafted rookie in an NFL training camp, Cooper Rush's goal is to keep his head down, work hard and earn a roster spot.

For the most part, the young quarterback is doing a good job with that. But he can forget about keeping a low profile from here on out. As he spoke to a mob of reporters on Tuesday morning, Rush acknowledged that it's become a bit harder to remain oblivious to the world outside his playbook.

"Well, now, yeah – usually I am, but now it's a little bit different," he said.

That has everything to do with Rush's fantastic play during the Cowboys' preseason – but also the results of that play. The Cowboys promoted the rookie on Monday, giving him a chance to work with the second-team offense toward the tail end of practice.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn't make any sweeping declarations about the move, or whether Rush is in competition with Kellen Moore to be the team's backup quarterback. Both players worked with the second-team offense at times on Monday. But Garrett did say it's a trend that will continue.

"We gave him some work with the twos and he did a nice job with that," Garrett said. "We moved Kellen Moore to work with the threes, we moved them back again during practice, we just wanted to see how each of those guys responded."

Rush got to this point in the first place by responding well to his opportunities. Garrett, Dak Prescott and others praised his efforts throughout the OTAs and minicamp, but he has demonstrated his ability to a national audience during the preseason.

There are currently 23 quarterbacks with 30 or more attempts in the 2017 preseason, and Rush leads all of them with a quarterback rating of 125.2. Only two of those other 22 quarterbacks – highly-prized backup Jimmy Garoppolo and No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky – have ratings in the triple digits.

"The way he prepares at that position gives him great chance to show when he comes into a game-type situation," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. "I've heard the word 'gamer.' I've heard it mentioned by the coaches in the coaching rooms that, boy, he's a gamer. He's just even better when he gets in a game."

It's hard to hear that and not think of Dak Prescott, given the way the Cowboys' current starter raised his game during his preseason opportunities last summer. Rush's situation is a little bit different, as there have been no injuries pushing him up the depth chart.

But it's easy to draw parallels between how the two young quarterbacks have so calmly responded to their chances in the spotlight.

"I think he understands how you play this position – it's from the neck up," Prescott said. "You don't let when you were drafted, when you were picked or anything like that affect you. I think he's used that to motivate him. Him being undrafted, he knows how good of a player he is. He's using that as a chip on his shoulder, and he's smart. He's learning."

All of that might be true, but Rush is too smart to think he's made it. Asked Tuesday if he wanted to compete for the backup job, he kept the focus much closer than that.

"I don't even really think of it. I'm just so focused on making this 53," he said. "That's been my No. 1 goal, and I think staying true to that goal is what's helping me keep progressing."

He's got two more weeks to accomplish that goal, with five practices and two games between now and cut down day. It might be too soon to speculate on the future, but things are certainly looking good in the present.

"It's not a bad sign," Rush said. "So you just take it, you go in stride with it and you stick with what you've been doing."

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