There can be no doubt that Jared Cook is a worthy recipient of the Tennessee Titans Community Man of the Year award.
His myriad efforts on behalf of breast cancer awareness and research here and at his home in Suwanee, Ga., are motivated by personal experience, in particular the fact that his mother, Yulinda Cook, is a survivor of the disease.
Given that the fourth-year tight end’s future with the franchise is uncertain, though, it seems worth wondering if the honor, announced Monday, was part of an effort to try to convince him to stay.
Not that it has done much good in the past in that regard. Five of the last seven players to win the award, which honors players who "demonstrate outstanding balance in their lives between civic and professional responsibilities," did so in their final season with the Titans.
“I’m a loyal person,” Cook said Monday. “The Titans did a big thing back in  when they kind of moved up and picked me up. I’m very grateful for that. With that being said, we’ll see how things go from here on out.”
It is clear that Cook’s 2012 season is over because of a torn rotator cuff (right shoulder) sustained during Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Coach Mike Munchak said the fourth-year tight end would be placed on injured reserve in the coming days.
That means his career with the Titans might also be finished.
The 2009 third-round pick is scheduled to become a free agent following the season. He downplayed but did not dismiss reports in late October that he wanted out of the organization and had requested a trade prior to the NFL’s deadline for such moves.
Cortland Finnegan, who won the award in 2010 and 2011, left last offseason when he was not offered a new contract. Similarly, Kyle Vanden Bosch won in 2009 and was gone the next season, as were Steve McNair (2005), Kevin Carter (2004), Jason Fisk (2001) and Kenny Holmes (2000).
Titans players and staff members, local media representatives and local non-profit and community executives vote to determine the winner, who becomes eligible for the NFL Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The organization makes the final determination.
“I was always taught then when you’re in a position to give back, and when you’re in a position that well exceeds other people’s you are supposed to give back — give back to where you come from and give back to the people that don’t have as much as you,” Cook said. “… It’s my turn to give back.”
Among his charitable efforts, Cook served as a spokesperson for multiple events connected to the Susan G. Komen "Race for the Cure," participated in a Titans event that raised money for the Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition and staged the Cook Classic basketball tournament at his high school to raise money for cancer research.
His injury will make him the 12th Titans player to go on injured reserve this season.
“It’s not cool,” Cook said of the injury. “I’m very thankful for this [award] but at the same time I was kind of dealt a blow. That aside, we’re here to celebrate this and I accept that.”
Cook came to the Titans with a pick acquired in a draft-day trade with the New England Patriots. Tennessee gave up a second-round choice the following year in order to select him.
In nearly four full seasons he has caught 131 passes for 1,717 yards and eight touchdowns. He is the team’s second-leading receiver this season with 44 receptions. He scored his fourth touchdown — a career-high — Sunday, which tied him with wide receivers Kendall Wright and Nate Washington for the team lead.
He was injured when he was tackled for a one-yard loss late in the third quarter.
“That was very unfortunate, losing another great player,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… [Him] being a big part of our offense, yeah that’s going to be a big blow for us.”
If he decides to sign elsewhere next offseason, the same will be true of the team’s community relations efforts.