Now that he's in New England, Brandin Cooks is trying to leave any bridges back to New Orleans without so much as a scorch mark, even though it remains rare for an NFL team to trade a young, talented player with two years left on his contract.
After a week of speculation, the Saints sent Cooks to the Patriots on Friday for a first-round pick (No. 32) and a third-round pick (No. 103), all while sending their fourth-round pick (No. 118) to New England.
Cooks offered little insight into the events that led up to the trade in his first interview with New England media Wednesday, simultaneously praising the Saints and admitting he's hoping a change of scenery will open up more opportunities for him.
"No bad blood," Cooks said of his time in New Orleans. "I love the organization and the people. Things just happen in life."
Cooks, who had been highly productive in New Orleans, admitted at the end of November that he was frustrated with his role in the Saints offense, even though he'd be one of just three NFL receivers — along with New York's Odell Beckham Jr. and Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown — to have at least 75 catches, 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in the past two seasons.
Frustration aside, Cooks tried to push back against widespread reports that he wanted out of New Orleans, denying that he requested a trade from the Saints.
"No, I didn't," Cooks said. "It was a long process, and I guess, so if we could set this straight, I think a lot of that and what was going on got taken out of context and exaggerated, and throughout the process I felt like I had to take some blows and keep my mouth shut, which is fine."
Cooks declined to offer any further insight or detail into the process that led the Saints to field interest from the Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles, saying only that he thought the trade was a "win-win" that allowed both teams to continue to build.
But he did admit he wanted to have an expanded role in a Saints offense that fielded one of the best receiving trios in the NFL last season, teaming Cooks with breakout rookie Michael Thomas and productive second-year target Willie Snead.
Under Sean Payton and Drew Brees, New Orleans has always been an offense that spreads the ball around, and Cooks hinted he would have liked to have a hand in some duties that went to other players.
"As a young guy, there were some things I'd like to have did more; not like I wasn't able to do them, we just had great guys doing those other things, so if it's not broke, why fix it?" Cooks said. "Coming to New England, it seems like it's an offense that you've got to do a bunch of different things, and I'm looking forward to being able to do some things I haven't done in New Orleans."
Pressed for specifics about the opportunities he believes he missed in New Orleans, Cooks declined to offer any details.
Cooks also wasn't upset with the deal that sent him away from Brees, his workout partner in southern California in the offseasons. Cooks told reporters he was "ecstatic" to find out he was headed to New England, where he'll get a chance to play with the defending Super Bowl champions and another first-ballot Hall of Famer in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
"I have nothing but high praise for Drew, he's a workaholic, a guy who pays attention to the game, so detailed, so as a young guy, to be able to have that, take some things off your plate," Cooks said. "It was a blessing to be able to play with him, and at the same time, he helped me learn about the game more from an overall standpoint. To have the opportunity to play with another Hall of Fame quarterback, I guess I know how to pick quarterbacks, right?"