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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Dalvin Cook ready to pick up where he left off after impressive start to rookie season

By Judd Zulgad

Four plays. Two carries.

That was the extent of Dalvin Cook’s preseason workload for the Vikings and the extent of how much action the running back has seen against opposing defenses since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last Oct. 1 at U.S. Bank Stadium during the third quarter of a 14-7 loss against the Detroit Lions.

Cook gained 1 yard on those two carries in the Vikings’ third exhibition game — he also was the target of an incomplete pass from Kirk Cousins — before departing.

But Cook said Wednesday that he’s ready to go for the Vikings’ regular-season opener on Sunday against the visiting San Francisco 49ers. He was not one of the seven players who appeared on the team’s injury report.

“The knee thing, I got it out of the way,” said Cook, who did not have to wear a protective brace in training camp. “Now, it’s just time for me to hone in on what we’re doing as an offense. My knee is fine, it’s ready to go. I’m ready to play. (The preseason) carries were a plus, but I’ve been practicing the whole time, getting reps, going full speed. … I’m ready to get out there and just ready to play.”

That’s welcome news for the Vikings considering the type of difference-maker a healthy Cook could be in this offense. Minnesota was able to grab Cook with the 41st pick of the second round in 2017 largely because of some of the character issues that surrounded the standout from Florida State.

Cook quickly proved that he possessed first-round talent and was second in the NFL in rushing after Week 3 of his rookie year with 288 yards on the ground. That was the most by any Vikings rookie through three games, surpassing Adrian Peterson’s 271-yard start in 2007 and Chuck Foreman’s 231-yard start in 1973.

Cook added 66 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown against the Lions before he crumpled to the turf when his knee gave out as he planted his leg to cut around a defender. He finished the season with 354 yards rushing on 74 carries and two touchdowns and also caught 11 passes for 90 yards.

The Vikings were 2-2 after the loss to the Lions and went on to win 11 of their final 12 regular-season games. Still, there was no doubt the offense had lost a weapon when the rookie got hurt.

For years this franchise saw Peterson wreak havoc on opposing defenses with his Hall of Fame running ability. But what they didn’t have in Peterson was a particularly adept receiver or a player who was very good in pass protection.

Cook is sound in all of these areas and thus fits in with the modern-day running backs who are counted on to do much more than line up in the backfield. Cook can take handoffs but he also can split out wide and run routes. He also has the ability to stay in on a passing play and protect quarterback Kirk Cousins.

This will make Cook a vital part of new coordinator John DeFilippo’s offense and should get him numerous touches both as a runner and receiver. The Vikings kept four running backs — Cook, Latavius Murray, Mike Boone and Roc Thomas — but will give Cook and Murray the majority of the reps.

Ideally, Cook will pick up where he left off last season before his injury.

“We’re going to find out really soon,” Cook said of taking the next step to playing in a full game. “It’s different. Once you’re in practice you try to help yourself with just finishing runs and finishing plays so you can get yourself in that type of shape. But once the game comes, it’s a different story. It’ll be a mental thing on the other side, so it’s about pushing through and wanting to get it done in the game. That’s what it becomes.”

Considering it has been 11-plus months since Cook played in a meaningful game, he knows he is going to have to be careful not to get too excited on Sunday.

“You’ve got to kind of tone it down a little bit because you can get overly excited and that’s when your mind goes to racing and all types of things,” he said. “Just (be) ready to go out there and have fun again. … Compete against another team … run around and have fun. This is the game we love to play, this is the game I love to play.”

Cook and the Vikings are both glad he is able to play it again.

The post Zulgad: Dalvin Cook ready to pick up where he left off after impressive start to rookie season appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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