KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Marcus Cooper hasn’t experienced meaningful snaps at safety in quite some time.
But the Chiefs are giving the fourth-year cornerback a healthy dose of repetitions at the position through nine days of organized team activities (OTAs).
“I played a little bit in high school,” Cooper said on the last time he played safety. “It’s been a while, but I’ve been here long enough. So, I learned defenses and stuff like that.”
The 6-2, 192-pound Cooper is in the middle of a position makeover since playing cornerback the past three seasons.
While he has lined up at cornerback and safety in OTAs, the questions remains – is he a safety or a cornerback?
“I’d tell you it’s kind of the same kind of thing with (defensive back Ron) Parker, he can do both,” coach Andy Reid said. “He’s had some good snaps for us here the last few days at corner, he’s had some good snaps at safety, too.”
Cooper, who entered the league in 2013 as a seventh-round pick out of Rutgers with the San Francisco 49ers, joined the Chiefs on Sept. 1, 2013 after being claimed off waivers from the 49ers.
His rookie season showed plenty of promise, as he played on 860 total snaps, including 645 on defense (58.1 percent).
Cooper made the most of that playing time, appearing in 16 games with six starts, and totaled 46 tackles (42 solo), three interceptions, 21 passes defensed, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown.
The past two seasons, however, show a different story.
Fresh off a 2013 campaign where he was named the Chiefs Rookie of the Year, Cooper started the 2014 season at left cornerback. He was then demoted in Week 7 in favor of Jamell Fleming, who is also currently transitioning to safety.
Cooper finished the 2014 season with 287 defensive snaps (27 percent), but didn’t log a snap on defense in Weeks 10-14 and was a healthy inactive the final two games. The 2015 season saw Cooper play on just 94 defensive snaps (8.6 percent).
But the last two seasons are in the rearview mirror and Cooper, who said he never lost his confidence despite the dwindling playing time, prefers to concentrate on the opportunity to find a niche on the backend of coverage.
“I don’t look back at the past, I can’t,” Cooper said. “I have a new job, a new position, I got to focus on. Looking back at the past is just going to slow down my progression.”
Cooper said the team approached him about a change of position before the start of the offseason workout program.
He accepted the challenge with plenty of time to get mentally prepared before the Chiefs hit the practice field for Phase III of the offseason workout program, which includes OTAs and mandatory minicamp.
“The coaching staff is very good at coming up to us and try to fit us in and try to make sure we stay in the loop on what’s going on,” Cooper said. “They came to me in a very timely manner and I’ve been prepared.”
The early results have been positive with the Chiefs working Cooper in various personnel packages in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s scheme.
“Bob’s got a couple little defenses there, different defenses there where he’s setting him back as a free safety and working some free safety with him,” Reid said. “He’s got good range and he’s smart, most of all he’s a smart guy.”
The coming months heading into training camp and even the regular season are big for Cooper, who enters the final year of his contract.
He has played at a high level before, evidenced by his rookie campaign, but there is hope the position change could go a long way in proving his value to the Chiefs.
“We all know this is my final year, but I can’t look at it like that,” Cooper said. “I got to take it one play at a time, one game at a time and go from there. Just have to focus on the here and now. That will take care of itself; the future will take care of itself.”