Before a slate can be written on anew, it must be washed, cleansed of its previous scribbles and made fresh for the next activity's marks. In clearing that slate, football players take stock of what they'd written the previous season to learn and grow.
It's not always the easiest process for players. Sometimes they're embarrassed by what they've put on tape. For some, it's a mix of good and bad.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook is one such player. He went through struggles early in the 2019 season acclimating to the new offense. Cook told reporters Thursday that washing away the bad taste from his early-season play was a process this offseason.
"There are still some plays on the film that haunt me and, of course, we're still going back over those plays and running through them, but they're still plays that haunt me that I still wish I could have back," Cook said, via Katherine Terrell of The Athletic. "So it's still, you know, learning from those, talking through them, getting the report, getting on the same page. Because it's a lot different when you're going through a season -- you're on to the next week; you don't have a lot of time to just sit there and reflect. But now we have that time. So we're doing that. And, you know, hopefully this season will be a lot different, being that me and Drew (Brees) do have a full season together and more time. So it's just working through those things and continuing to get better."
Cook struggled early in the season, catching 15 receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns in his first six games as a Saint. During that stretch, he never earned more than 41 yards in any game and he suffered an ankle injury that knocked him out of two tilts. Through the season, there were some miscommunications both with Brees and Teddy Bridgewater as Cook learned the system.
While a few plays stick in Cook's craw, he surged through the midseason point, becoming a key cog in the Saints' passing offense next to Michael Thomas. His concussion in Week 13 against San Francisco played a huge role in the shootout loss. Cook finished with 43 catches for 705 yards and nine TDs for the season in 14 games.
In Year 2 in New Orleans, Cook is ready to start the season hot after learning the offense last year.
"It's just continually going over plays and talking through them and making sure that you never make the same mistake twice," Cook said. "Now, how do you grow from last year to this year? And continue with that same mentality of not making the same mistakes? So, it is just going over and revisiting. It sucks to revisit -- that's, like, the worst part -- but it makes you better going forward."
Revisiting the revolting parts of one game can help lead to growth. It's a lesson to be embraced both on and off the gridiron.