Amari Cooper is still not ready to return.
The three-time Pro Bowler left practice early on Aug. 3 with what was described by the Dallas Cowboys as a heel bruise, and head coach Jason Garrett had hopes on Aug. 6 that Cooper would return to practice that afternoon. He's since missed every practice and the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, however, and new information points to an issue that may be more concerning than a simple bruised heel. The injury to Cooper is reportedly "more of a ligament thing," team insider Mickey Spagnola told 105.3FM the Fan on Aug. 13, which would explain why extra rest is needed.
A source with knowledge of the situation tells me it is indeed closer to what Spagnola suggests versus what the team originally stated it was, and although a formal diagnosis has not been revealed -- the situation does warrant a higher level of concern. With the season opener against the New York Giants still some weeks away, though, it's not yet time to panic, either. As it stands, the situation sits somewhere in between those two points of emotion.
Garrett and the Cowboys are still calling Cooper's injury a day-to-day issue, for what it's worth.
"He's making progress, and we're certainly not gonna rush him back," Garrett said earlier this week in a press conference. "...He's getting closer and closer. He's working on the side. We don't think this is a long-term thing, but we just want to be deliberate in bringing him back."
Adding more mud to the water, though, Garrett was vague regarding what tests have been run.
"I don't know the exact medical procedures he's gone through," he noted. "But suffice it to say he's been evaluated a ton of different ways."
That's a lot of willful ambiguity from a team's head coach, especially when speaking on a star player, but it's where the team stands on the matter. That said, unless things change, the safe bet is Cooper won't participate in one of the final three preseason games.
The team traded a 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders in Week 8 of the 2018 season in exchange for Cooper, who instantly helped rejuvenate a mostly-deceased passing attack for a team that had already stumbled to a 3-4 start. He was targeted 53 times over his first six games with the Cowboys, and reeled in 40 of those targets for a total of 349 yards (16.05 yards per catch) and three touchdowns -- including a 217-yard bonanza against the rival Philadelphia Eagles that also saw him catch the walk-off TD in overtime.
Currently engaged in contract talks with the team, Cooper is exercising patience as the market at wide receiver continues to go up, but that's much to the chagrin of a Cowboys teamright now. Talks have mostly stalled at the moment, and although that could change at a moment's notice, Cooper has been in no rush to ink his deal. He's made it abundantly clear he doesn't ask his agent about the negotiations whatsoever, and is instead focused on simply playing football and proving he's one of the best wideouts in the game -- given a full 16+ slate with the Cowboys.
That alone hints at the possibility that Cooper hits the free market in 2020 but, for now, the primary goal is getting him back on the field in time for opening night on Sept. 8. With running back Ezekiel Elliott currently engaged in a holdout that could extend into the regular season -- -- the new-look Cowboys' offense under new and first-time coordinator Kellen Moore is in danger of being at half mast when Big Blue rolls into town.
It's only August, but all eyes are already on the Cowboys as they work to finally turn the corner and make a run at February.