GREEN BAY – Randall Cobb has a new contract, but he's promising it won't change him as a player.
Consider it a lesson already learned, because the Packers' star wide receiver has acknowledged that a year ago, his pursuit of the new contract was negatively affecting his game.
"This time last year, I was thinking about, 'OK, what is it I have to do to get to that point?'" Cobb said earlier this week following an OTA practice. "I'm thinking it may have been one play that would change everything. That's not how it works."
Coming off a leg injury that sidelined him for 10 games in 2013, and chasing after that career-altering, sign-me-now play, Cobb wasn't himself. He began 2014 with three TD receptions in the first two games, but he had just 97 yards on 11 total catches, an 8.8-yard average nowhere close to the 13.0 average he posted through his first three pro seasons.
He hit the low point in Week 3 at Detroit. On a day the entire Green Bay offense played poorly, Cobb caught just three passes for 29 yards and verbally beat himself up in front of reporters at his locker afterward (video at right).
From there, he managed to block out his contract status and got back to being the old Cobb. In Week 4 at Chicago, he broke loose with seven catches for 113 yards and two TDs, beginning a streak of six consecutive games with a score.
Big plays were back to being the norm again. Over the final 13 regular-season games, he caught 77 passes for 1,161 yards – a 15.1 average – with nine TDs. In the playoffs, he added a sixth 100-yard game against Dallas, and another TD in Seattle.
The career year came at the right time after all, and Cobb was rewarded as expected.
He dismissed any notion there's any more pressure, or higher expectations, now that he's being paid as one of the NFL's elite receivers.
"That pressure is released," he said. "I don't have to worry about those things. I can focus on continuing to work on my craft.
"I have the biggest expectations for myself. Nobody in this room, nobody in this building, none of you all, no fan can set expectations higher than my own."
Cobb's personal goals aren't necessarily statistical, though. Surpassing last year's career-best numbers (91 catches, 1,287 yards, 12 TDs) may not be realistic given Davante Adams' continued emergence within the offense.
"Davante coming along, that adds a target, and he's going to get more targets," Cobb said. "I look forward to this receiving corps. We've got a great offense, a lot of weapons. It's going to be hard to top what I did last year."
He plans to play his part in bringing a deep group of young receivers along, including Adams, 2014 draft picks Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis, 2015 draft pick Ty Montgomery, and a host of other prospects.
It starts with answering questions about the playbook, the same way Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones did for him. The offense takes time to learn.
"It's a complex deal," Cobb said.
What is no longer complex is Cobb's mental state. He's still going to be his own worst critic, but he's looking at the new contract as, in a sense, nothing new.
"It doesn't change anything," he said. "It's the same thing. I have to come here every day and prove myself. I have to continue to get better and continue to be a helping hand for these younger guys."
Enjoy these photos of WR Randall Cobb from the 2014 season. Cobb earned his first career Pro Bowl honors with 91 receptions, 1,287 yards, and 12 touchdowns.