GREEN BAY – Randall Cobb has navigated a lot of change in recent years.
From leaving the Packers, to joining the Cowboys, to moving on to the Texans, to returning to Green Bay … now 2022 has arrived and while he's no longer on the move, change continues.
Longtime teammate Davante Adams is gone from the receivers' room, along with Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. Veteran Sammy Watkins has arrived, but other than fourth-year pro Allen Lazard, the rest of the position group consists of players with two years or fewer in the NFL, plus multiple rookies likely to be arriving soon.
But Cobb has been at this long enough to remain unfazed by everything feeling in flux. After all, he was here in 2018 when Jordy Nelson was released, the Packers drafted three receivers, and then didn't bring him back the following year.
He's a seasoned, accomplished pro who knows how to adjust, how to lead young players, and how to focus on the here and now.
"I mean, every year it's a different team," Cobb said Wednesday, three days into the Packers' offseason workout program. "You have to figure out a lot of different things every season in this league. Nothing is a given, nothing is certain. There's a lot of moving pieces."
The newest pieces will be on board soon via the draft, and Cobb – along with Lazard and Watkins – will be counted on to show them the NFL ropes.
Cobb entered the league 11 years ago under unusual circumstances. Players were locked out during an offseason labor dispute, so as a second-round pick out of Kentucky he couldn't start learning the playbook until training camp.
But regardless of the timeline, that's where it starts for young receivers – the playbook – before any energy can be spent on the nuances of the pro game.
"Once you learn the offense, you build more confidence and have more confidence and understanding, and then you can start focusing on other stuff," he said. "You can start focusing on your technique, your route running and being able to dial into that. So it's just a learning curve, how fast can you pick up the offense and then take that next step?"
At the right moments, he also will impress upon any rookies that come in how small the margin for error is at this level. Cobb noted that was a bigger adjustment for him than the actual speed of the game, learning how every step of a route matters and how throwing windows can open and close at the slightest development within a play.
"You could be a little off time in college and still create separation, but in the league it's all about timing," he said. "It's about being open at the right time, not making your break too early, not making your break too late."
As for his own career in Year 12, Cobb said all the moving around since 2018 prompted him to accept a pay cut and return to the Packers rather than transport his family again.
He's thankful for all the years he got to play with Adams – "Every good thing comes to an end," he said – and he's excited to see what's next for Lazard, who finished strong over the final five regular-season games last year, topping 70 yards three times and catching five TD passes.
"You just see this steadiness every week, making plays with the opportunities that he had," Cobb said of Lazard's final month in 2021. "I think he has a special ability and he was definitely hitting strides there toward the end of the season."
Cobb also stressed patience with the development of Amari Rodgers, a third-round draft pick from Clemson last year whom Cobb has known since Rodgers was in elementary school. Cobb's position coach at Kentucky was Tee Martin, Rodgers' father, and while the young receiver's rookie season didn't go as hoped, Cobb doesn't see his first foray into the NFL defining him.
His words serve as good reminders for the upcoming debuts of young receivers the Packers acquire next week.
"This isn't easy. What we do is not easy," Cobb said. "For anybody to think that you can just walk into a place and become great, it's a process. Just give it time. Some people take a little longer to blossom.
"He knows he has the tools; it's about putting those tools to use and continuing to overcome that learning curve. He has a great knowledge of the offense when you just hear him in meetings. Now it's just about applying it and continuing to build that confidence."