By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots aren’t in the catchphrase business – well, if you don’t count their trademarks on Do Your Job™. But they’re mainly in the business of winning football games, so it should not come as a shock that they may have other mantras permeating the locker rooms at Gillette Stadium. You may think the “Patriot Way” is overrated or a myth, but if you ask me it deserves a slice of credit for Bill Belichick’s success and consistency in New England.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Patriots guard Jonathan Cooper uttered a phrase that he described as a ‘slogan’ – and when you think about how many players Belichick has brought in and gotten to play to the best of their abilities, it makes a lot of sense that the coaches would drill this phrase into players’ skulls.
“One of the slogans around here is, ‘Don’t let what you can’t do dictate what you can do,'” said Cooper. “So every aspect other than what I couldn’t physically do, whether that’s the mental aspects, whether that’s just extra work on the body parts that I could [work on], it’s just doing that and taking full advantage of the time I have.”
It’s a simple idea: don’t worry about what you can’t do well, just focus on what you can. Belichick and his staff always look for a way to utilize a player to the best of his abilities. It may not always work out – does it with anyone? – but they have proven teams wrong about their castoffs in the recent past. They’ve had success with recent midseason acquisitions like Akiem Hicks, Akeem Ayers, and Aqib Talib (guess they just know how to scout “A” names). LeGarrette Blount has also added tangible value to the roster since being acquired for Jeff Demps and a seventh-round pick at the 2013 NFL Draft.
Hopefully, for the sake of the Patriots offensive line, Cooper ends up contributing like one of the aforementioned names. Tuesday’s trade of guard Josh Kline to the Philadelphia Eagles leaves Cooper, the injured Shaq Mason, and rookies Joe Thuney and Ted Karras as the only guards on the active roster. The Patriots must feel good about not just Mason’s injured hand but Cooper’s prospects of playing the best football of what’s been a disappointing career for him so far.
Cooper was asked about how he reacted when he heard about his own trade to New England.
“[Being traded] catches you off guard, but you understand it’s the nature of the business,” said Cooper. “Wherever you go next, you’re just going to put your best foot forward and play to the best of your ability.”
As far as the best of Cooper’s ability, it will have to be the best he’s ever looked, considering how little he contributed to the Cardinals in the first three seasons of his career. But based on Belichick’s history, you can trust him and the coaching staff to find what Cooper does well and doesn’t do well, eliminate or avoid the bad things, and keep putting him in situations where he can succeed and do what he excels at. It’s what transformed guys like Hicks and Ayers from potential busts to meaningful contributors. Don’t let what Cooper can’t do dictate what he can do.
As Sunday night approaches and Cooper preps to face his former team in Arizona in prime time, whatever the guard “can do” is anyone’s guess. But the Patriots’ recent moves can only inspire confidence that they have found it.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.