Texans veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks broke his silence Thursday afternoon one week after missing a game for personal reasons due to an extremely high level of frustration after remaining on the roster following the NFL trade deadline.
Although Cooks declined to elaborate in detail about the reasons behind his displeasure, which he expressed on social media minutes after multiple trade discussions conducted by Texans general manager Nick Caserio didn't result in a deal, the California native left no doubt that big-picture issues, including the team's 1-6-1 record, that have upset him are unresolved. Cooks also emphasized that he will give his teammates everything he has as long as he's a part of the tam.
"Look, man, I'm human, I'm frustrated, absolutely," Cooks said Thursday inside the Texans locker room. "I want to win. That's not the case as to what's going on. That's the way I expressed my emotion. I think we all want to win. We're all frustrated in some sense. That's where I stand with that. ..
"Being in the league in general, when you suit up, you want to compete and win games. That's not going on, so the frustration stems from that and a lot of things."
Were the Texans and Cooks on the same page the entire year? Cooks said things changed, but he didn't specify what changes resulted in his change of feelings toward the organization.
The Texans mutually parted ways with executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby earlier this season. Cooks and Easterby have a close relationship. A league source emphasized that it's not a simple situation, saying Cooks' displeasure stems from multiple reasons primarily dealing with wanting to win and wanting to be more involved and productive within the offense.
"As far as changing, I don't know," Cooks said. "I think we were on the same page at a point in the offseason and training camp and having fun. A lot of things changed, right? I don't know everything that goes through (Caserio's) head. I think he's trying to build a team. I think he has a job to do. However that looks, he's got to believe that's right and that's all that matters."
The Texans held discussions regarding Cooks and drew inquiries from multiple teams, including the Dallas Cowboys late in the process, per a league source.
To trade Cooks, the Texans would likely have had to take on a large portion of his 2023 salary to get the deal done, or Cooks would have had to restructure his contract. The situation was complicated by the Texans' asking price of a second-round draft pick and a fourth-round draft pick and NFL teams along with Cooks' $18 million fully guaranteed 2023 base salary under a two-year, $39.6 million extension he signed last spring during a time of contentment with the franchise.
"Don’t take a man’s kindness for granted," Cooks wrote last week on his verified Twitter account. "Covered for the lies for too long those days are done. Crossed the line with playing with my career "
Cooks declined to elaborate on his social media message, saying several times Thursday: "I'm keeping it internal."
Cooks' discontent stems from multiple reasons, including how close he felt the Texans were to sending him to a contending franchise as conversations were held or inquiries fielded from the Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings.
The Texans haven't been a winner since Cooks was acquired in a trade from the Rams in 2020, finishing with a losing record that year, 4-13 in 2021 and followed by this bad start this season. The Texans would own the first overall pick of the draft if the season was over today.
"I mean at this point in my career I'm not sure if you're calling this a rebuild," Cooks said. "I think anyone later in their career wouldn't want to be part of a 'rebuild.' You work too hard, you want to win. All the work you put in. Obviously, you understand organizations and they all go through that. At the end of the day, I want to win now. That's always been my thought process."
Caserio, Smith and other key members of the organization have consistently praised Cooks for his leadership, character and the example he sets for other players.
The disconnect now between him and the organization raises questions about how Cooks fits going forward.
Cooks declined to discuss where he fits within that culture going forward and which direction the franchise is headed.
"I think that's a question for coach Lovie and Nick where they want that to go," Cooks said. "At the end of the day, how Nick sees fit and what he wants this culture to be, that's a question for him. I don't know what that looks like. I'm going to be the best I can for my teammates for the time being and everything else."
When asked if he believes Caserio sees him as a culture fit now, Cooks replied: "You're going to have to ask him about that."
Cooks added that the state of the team hasn't changed significantly since last year. Last season, though, he caught 90 passes for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns on 134 targets.
Cooks leads the Texans with 32 receptions for 354 yards and one touchdown on 53 targets, considerably less involvement than a year ago. He has a long reception of 44 yards, an average of 50.6 yards per game, a catch percentage of 60.4 percent and an average of 6.7 yards per target.
"As far as the difference between last year and this year, we wasn't winning last year, either," Cooks said. "So, at the end of the day, whatever we can do to win that's what I want to do. Whatever my role is I've got to trust in that."
Cooks liked several social media posts involving him and trade speculation before the trade deadline.
How he compartmentalizes what didn't happen -- a trade he was hoping for -- and remaining on the roster is a unique situation.
"I mean mental anytime I line up between those white lines, I'm going to give my best because at the end of the day when you go out there you can't think about it," Cooks said. "Things going on off the field is one thing. When I go out there, with my brothers, at the end of the day, I've got to be there for them. The other stuff, is going to take care of itself."
This has become an increasingly awkward situation as Cooks liked several social media posts recently involving him and trade speculation. Ideally, Cooks wants to play for a contending team and have a major role. The Texans made a good-faith effort to try to trade him, but it didn't work out.
"We support him no matter what," Cann said. "People forget in this game that we're human, that we have personal issues. We're going to hold it down for him. We'll be happy to welcome him back with open arms this week."
The Texans are expected to attempt to trade Cooks during the offseason after coming close to trading him at the deadline.
When Cooks was asked if he would consider remaining with the organization in 2023, he left little doubt he's ready to move on when the time comes.
"How I'm feeling right now, I take it day by day process," Cooks said. "I'm here now for the time being. As far as everything else getting worked out, we'll keep that internal."
Cooks also characterized playing for the Texans in joyful terms during training camp. Since that point, though, the Texans have won only one game.
"Training camp, you're practicing, you're not playing games," Cooks said. "You're not competing. You're competing against one another. When the real season starts, as we all know, you're going against opponents, I just want to win, that's all I want to do."
Cooks is on pace for 68 receptions for 809 yards for the season. He had two 1,000-yard seasons since joining the Texans.
Texans offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said that he expects Cooks to perform at his usual level, starting Sunday against the New York Giants.
"Brandin's a pro, he's a pro," Hamilton said. "When it's football time, it's ball time. He knows how to prepare. He'll be ready to go."
Although this became an increasingly awkward situation for Cooks individually, that hasn't impacted his relationships with his teammates.
They remain supportive of him.
"As far as B Cooks goes, his name up there, he's ready to play ball," Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce said while pointing across the room at Cooks' locker stall. "He's ready to go. I know 13 is ready to play. Whatever was going on whatever time he took away ,mental health is the best health. As long as his mind is clear and he's ready to go, we all know in this locker room what kind of player he is what kind of guy he is, what kind of juice he brings to this team and what his intentions are with us.
"All that outside media stuff, we don't let that get to us. We know what he was going through. He's battling injuries. He's frustrated. He wants to play better and we want to be there for him As long as his name is on that locker, we're rocking and rolling with B Cooks."
Several teammates, including Pierce, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, offensive guard A.J. Cann and wide receiver Chris Moore have expressed their support and understanding about Cooks.
"At the end of the day, all of my teammates will tell you, I love them very much and I care about them," Cooks said. "They understand my situation. At the same time, I'm going to be there for them as best as I can. They understand that.
"There's no bad blood there. At the end of the day, we all go through this in some sort of way in our career. They know I love them. That's never been a question and they know that for a fact."
For however long Cooks continues to play for the Texans, his teammates are embracing him and staying out of his dispute with the team.
"Absolutely, exactly, that's our teammate, that's my brother," Tunsil said. "I'm always going to love Brandin Cooks. So, open arms all day. That's my guy."
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.