The Bears continued to retool their secondary Saturday, signing veteran free-agent cornerback
“I’ll be able to bring some more experience,” Cooper said Saturday evening on a conference call with reporters. “I know we had a younger group coming in and it’ll give me the opportunity to play with older guys too. Quintin Demps, he’s a guy that’s already there. It’s a talented group and we’re going to make our mark in the league.”
Cooper switched from wide receiver to cornerback his final year at Rutgers and was still inexperienced at the position when the 49ers selected him in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. Cooper’s position coach in San Francisco was Ed Donatell, who is entering his third season in the same role on John Fox’s staff with the Bears.
“Ed’s one of my favorite coaches,” Cooper said. “I’ve always had a respect for him. I’ve always had a passion for working with him, just from when I came into San Francisco and he took me in and we started working together and trying to get better. He definitely played a huge part in getting me in this whole position.”
Cooper failed to make the 49ers’ 53-man roster as a rookie, but he was claimed off waivers by the Chiefs and spent three-plus seasons in Kansas City before being traded to the Cardinals last Sept. 7 in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft.
Cooper enjoyed a breakout season in Arizona, setting career highs with 15 games played, 13 starts, 69 tackles and four interceptions. He also returned one of the picks for his first career touchdown and added a team-high 11 pass breakups.
Asked about his emergence with the Cardinals in 2016, Cooper said: “I have to give some of that credit to Kansas City. They kept me around for two years. I didn’t see much game time, but I was able to go in every week at practice and get better. I had [former Pro Bowl cornerback] Al Harris there [as a coach] who was helping me get better at my craft. I was able to bear down and improve every day and I guess the fruits of the labor showed last year during the season.”
In joining the Bears, Cooper is eager to show Donatell and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio—who served in the same capacity with the 49ers when Cooper was rookie—that he is now a much more polished cornerback.
“I was still fresh at my position when I switched over in college from receiver,” Cooper said. “I’ve just been able to go through some things as a corner and had some success as a corner and that’s allowed me to grow mentally and competitively. So I’m just happy to have the opportunity to work with them again.”
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