School is in session for Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook.
And the rookie third-round pick has plenty of instructors to learn from during organized team activities and training camp, getting him ready for his first NFL season.
Cook as the size (6-5, 250) and the speed that put him in the position to create potential mismatches deep down the middle of the field, and Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger is sort of in hurry-up mode to get Cook involved in the offense, at least on a limited basis, sooner rather than later.
“I’ve been learning that from Coach Heimerdinger, how to get off the jam and use that [size and speed] to my advantage,” Cook said. “If I just keep doing the right things and keep learning, hopefully those things will work in my favor.”
Position coach John Zernheldt is charged with helping Cook’s learning curve, but the rookie is also getting help from another “coach” — veteran tight end Alge Crumpler.
Crumpler is aware of the new dynamics that are being added to the offense, and wants to help Cook learn his role as quickly as possible.
“Right now, everything is fast and ’Dinger is definitely not holding back on anything,” Crumpler said. “He’s got some new toys and he’s getting really creative and they’re putting a lot on us from a mental standpoint and they’re expecting us to do it.”
Cook is often split out wide in an effort to get him into open space, and said he his even running a few receiver type routes, a la Bo Scaife, but with the potential to get deeper.
Heimerdinger likes the progress Cook is making, but says the rookie is still very much a work in progress.
“We’ll move him around and do some things with him,” Heimerdinger said. “These three OTAs are much better than when he first got here. He’s lining up right, he’s doing some things. He’s making a play. He’s catching the ball decent and getting in the right spot.
“But there are still five or six mistakes for every two things he does good. He’s a rookie, and we’ll find out. He’s going to have to learn pretty fast, because we’re moving pretty quickly and it’s not too far around the corner.”
Having a professional approach to the game is something Crumpler has been stressing to Cook during OTAs.
“Crump is like a coach. Crump has been around the league for a long time,” Cook said. “He has a lot of wisdom to share. Every time I come off, he’ll tell me the little things that I need to correct, which is very helpful in the meeting rooms when we’re watching the field. It’s just day by day, he’s always in my head, helping me. It’s just great to have somebody like that around.”
Crumpler has been like that from his first meeting with Cook, offering up his cellphone number to the rookie and mentoring him the way Reggie Kelly and Brian Kozlowski did when Crumpler was breaking in years ago with the Atlanta Falcons.
“I’d do it for anybody, but he’s got special talent, and in order for him to reach that full potential, it’s important that he attacks this game as a professional every single day,” Crumpler said.
The veteran tight end has encouraged Cook to take better care of his body, with what he eats and to make sure he hits the cold tub after practices. The lessons extend to the classroom as well, but Crumpler wishes Cook would be a little more vocal.
“He comes in the room and he’s watching film. He’s quiet. I’ve just got to get him to start asking questions,” Crumpler said. “He’s just a quiet guy. He can draw it up on the board. He knows it. I let him know from day one — I gave him my number and told him if you have any questions, I won’t steer you wrong. Just come to me and ask the questions.”
Credit Cook with trying to absorb as much as possible and wanting to improve his game.
“You can never be satisfied with what you do. There’s always something you can improve on,” Cook said. “I just take everything with a grain of salt, and try to learn as much as you can and just want it. You’ve got to learn … that there’s not many opportunities like you got in college. You’ve just got to want it and take advantage of the opportunities you get.”
Those opportunities could increase if Cook soon shows the aptitude and playmaking abilities the Titans drafted him for. Crumpler draws the comparison to the impact Chris Johnson made a year ago as a rookie running back.
“He’s gotten a lot better than where he was when he first came in here. But when he gets to that next stage of training camp, and it gets even better in the preseason, so that when he gets to the regular season, he can progress like Chris [Johnson] did,” Crumpler said.
“He definitely can stretch the field and has good hands. It’s just a matter of him staying aggressive and knowing that he can win in any situations.”