New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) carries on a pass play in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)
Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks has had surgery to repair the thumb he fractured in Sunday’s 27-10 loss to Cincinnati at home, and doctors estimate he could be back in four to six weeks, his agent Jeff Sperbeck announced via Twitter on Monday.
Cooks’ verified Twitter account sent out its own messages Monday attempting to assuage the concerns of Saints fans.
“People, there is nothing to worry (about),” read the dispatches from Cooks’ account. “This is a part of his plan. I just smile … (and) just watch and see God … work.
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON–New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) fumbles while being tackled by Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Jayson DiManche (51), Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver James Wright (86), and Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard (21) in a NFL football game in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. Cooks broke his thumb on the play.
“The devil saw an opportunity to try to break my relationship with Christ, but little did he know. Death nor pain can do that Haha devil is wack.”
Cooks’ positive outlook may not do much to console distressed Who Dats.
His importance to the Saints is obvious to even casual observers. The rookie first-round draft selection out of Oregon State is second on the team in receptions (53), receiving yards (550) and touchdown catches (three), trailing only star tight end Jimmy Graham (59 grabs for 623 yards and seven TDs). He’s also carried the ball seven times for 73 yards and another touchdown, and he’s been the primary punt returner for the team.
These are crucial times for the Saints (4-6), who have six games left this regular season. Despite dropping their last two games, both at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, they sit second in a weak NFC South whose leader, Atlanta, is also 4-6. Atlanta is technically in first place because it beat the Saints at the Georgia Dome in Week 1, but the teams play each other again in New Orleans on Dec. 21.
All division victors in the NFL are guaranteed a home playoff game.
Under Cooks in the Saints’ pecking order are veteran receiver Marques Colston (34 catches for 536 yards and a touchdown) and second-year pro Kenny Stills (31 grabs for 431 yards and two TDs, including a 9-yarder against the Bengals). Below Colston and Stills are players such as Robert Meachem (five catches for 85 yards), Nick Toon (no receptions) and Joseph Morgan (one grab for seven yards). Stills and Morgan are obvious candidates to replace Cooks at least in returning punts, given their speed; and so is backup running back Travaris Cadet, who handles fielding kickoffs.
It’s not been confirmed when Cooks was hurt. But he fielded a punt Sunday at the Saints’ 17 with about 3:30 to go, returned it four yards and fumbled the ball after he was hit in the right hand by the helmet of Bengals defender Jayson DiManche. The Saints recovered the fumble; but Cooks walked away from the pile of players over the ball clutching the area above his right wrist with his left hand, and he grimaced in apparent pain in view of a television camera.
The injury is the latest frustration in a season where little has gone to plan for the Saints. Aside from the lackluster record, there’s been numerous key injuries, including the season-ending knee ligament tear to three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd ahead of Week 5.
Another key member of the Saints’ offense missed three games earlier this season with a broken thumb: running back Mark Ingram, who has racked up 618 rushing yards, 138 carries and six touchdowns to head the Saints’ ground game this year.
A second safety — rookie Vinnie Sunseri, a mainstay on the special-teams coverage units — fractured his arm in a loss to San Francisco on Nov. 9.
Yet another safety, Rafael Bush, broke his right fibula making a tackle late in the loss to Cincinnati.
Bush was hurt about 80 seconds before Cooks was in terms of elapsed game time. Both Cooks’ and Bush’s fractures occurred while the Saints were down by the final score of 27-10; and there was essentially no chance of a comeback at that tardy stage of the game, enhancing the general sense of frustration surrounding the injuries.
Saints coach Sean Payton on Monday declined to discuss the injuries to Cooks and Bush, who initially believed he had a more serious tibia fracture but could nonetheless also miss four to six weeks.
Perhaps second-year safety Kenny Vaccaro best summed it up for the Saints after the Bengals game when he wearily said, “We’re banged up.”
The Saints host Baltimore (6-4) next Monday night.
Note: This post was edited to mention that it was Bengals defender Jayson DiManche’s helmet which hit Brandin Cooks in the right hand, caused the fumble and apparently caused his thumb fracture. The official game book credited Darqueze Dennard as having hit Cooks on the fumbled punt return.