© Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

There's a scene or several in the movie "Terminator 2" when the T-1000 is blown to bits and/or suffers several shotgun blasts to the torso and just keeps going -- its only mission being to destroy his targets. More and more, it feels like Amari Cooper is approaching such a level, for while rookie first-round pick Micah Parsons has rightfully declared himself a T-800, Cooper showed he won't be slowed by a combination of a fractured rib and a hamstring injury. The latter saw him miss a series early in the battle between the Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers on Sunday, but when he returned, it was judgment day.

Cooper didn't finish the day with a explosive stat line, but his 69 receiving yards led the team and he reeled in all three of his targets from Dak Prescott, with one in particular setting AT&T Stadium on fire. With the Cowboys holding tightly to a 20-14 lead in the beginning of the third quarter, Cooper executed his defender ... er, um ... a double route against his defender then burst down the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown catch that Prescott placed perfectly over his shoulder.

Imagine if his hamstring wasn't bothering him.

For his part, after the game, Cooper brushed off any potential concerns about the injury.

"I think it's going to be good," he said in his post-game press conference. "I just tweaked it. It's just part of the game. I'm going to rehab it and get some treatment on it. As long as I can run, I'll be good."

And good is exactly what he's again been for the Cowboys in 2021, or more accurately: elite.

The four-time Pro Bowler has been slowed a bit, 'tis true, but he's continued to answer the bell when Prescott makes the call. He exploded against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in the season opener for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 13 catches and now has three touchdowns in the first four games, also catching 75.9% of his passes -- a career-high. Even with the presence of CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, the latter to return from injured reserve soon, Cooper continues to show why he's the definitive WR1 in Dallas, and carrying that title comes with more than just the $20 million per year paycheck.

It comes with the requirement of leadership, both in the locker room and on the field, and Cooper's willingness and ability to dominate despite being battered, fractured and bruised inspires others to leave it all on the field as well.

"It is just one of those cases. The more experience you have with something, the better you'll get at it," Cooper said casually of his hamstring ailment. "Usually, when you get hurt, you don't want to play through as the self-preservation instinct kicks in. But looking at my teammates' eyes, seeing how bad they wanted this, I had to play. 

" ... I'll get treatment and try to be as best I can for next week."

So there you have it, pencil him in for another critical NFC East clash on Sunday, when the Cowboys host the New York Giants; with Cooper focused more so on pain management than anything else.

"When you play with injuries, you learn how to play through them," he said. "I've had a hamstring before. I kind of knew that I could go. It depends in the severity -- high, low, middle. I knew what I would be able to do, and I knew what I wouldn't really be able to do."

And while he's not 100% at the moment, it doesn't change how he views himself on the field. To him, he's never covered, and while that's mostly accurate, he wants Prescott to get more comfortable throwing the go routes to him -- something usually reserved for the aggressive high-pointing talents of Gallup. Cooper is the route surgeon of the group, and that's how the Cowboys utilize him, to great success. That said, he doesn't want anyone thinking he can't make it happen downfield as well, tweaked hamstring or not.

"I don't think people really get to see that part of my game," said Cooper. "In terms of me high-pointing a ball and having a quarterback just throwing it up, because part of my game is creating separation. I've been trying to tell Dak, just throw it up. But he
doesn't get to see me do that often to where just throw it up and I can high point because I'd be open a lot. 

"...So, that's also a big part of my game. The separation doesn't have to be there all the time. Just throw it up and I'll go get it. I think that's what that was. He told me after the play was the reason, he just threw it up because last week I had a route against [Eagles cornerback Darius Slay], like a double move and even though we were even he tried to line drive it. I told him just to throw it up and he said I agree. 

"That's why he did that this week."

It should terrify opposing defenses to know that even with the excellent chemistry and success Cooper has had with Prescott, that the two still have fine tuning to do going forward. And if another dimension is added to what the former brings to the table, it could make an already lethal wide receiving corps in Dallas that much more so going forward. 

It's all enough to make Jon Connor nervous.

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