Just one week ago, the Vikings commenced in weaving their way through seven rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft, and seemingly placing a great emphasis on leadership and character in their selecting their next generation of football players.
In the same week, however, the Vikings welcomed two players of concern back into their building for offseason workouts.
Cornerback Chris Cook was found not guilty in March of charges that he assaulted his girlfriend and tried to strangle her and has now rejoined the team for the first time since the October incident landed him in jail.
“I definitely appreciate it a lot more than I have in the past,” Cook said of being back with his teammates. “This is what I love to do, even though this isn’t the really fun part, it’s kind of hard, but I love doing this. This is the part of the year when you get better.”
“I feel like I have to earn their trust again. I definitely let them down last year by being in the situation I was in and missing the 10 games. I’m really looking forward to earning their trust and being a contributing factor to the team,” he said.
Cook said that he and Leslie Frazier kept in contact during the cornerbacks lengthy legal issues took place.
“It was positive. He’s a very encouraging man, and I respect him a lot. He’s not really been down on me. He’s very supportive of me,” Cook said.
Time will tell if Frazier’s willingness to not come down hard on Cook will pay off. If Cook turns his life around, then Frazier could be credited with some sort of second-chance mentorship role being the turning point. If Cook stumbles again, however, then Frazier will likely be blamed for coddling the young cornerback because of his talent on the field.
The other player who has a bit of proving to do is newly acquired receiver Jerome Simpson. Simpson will begin his tenure with the Vikings by serving a three game suspension for a September incident that landed him in jail on drug trafficking charges.
Simpson was sentenced after he plead not guilty and admitted to his “mistake” and appeared willing to acknowledge his wrong doing, accept the consequences, and move on.
“Everybody knows that (incident) wasn’t my character, what happened, and it’s basically just prove it. You can talk all you want to, but if you don’t prove it, it really doesn’t mean a hill of beans,” Simpson said.
“That wasn’t my characteristics,” Simpson continued in his first meeting with the Minnesota media. “I’m a good guy, love the community, love kids and everything, and I just made a poor decision.”
Simpson, while grateful for the opportunity, knows full well that he needs to produce positive results on and off the field for the Vikings or else this one year contract could be the last one he ever gets.
“It’s absolutely a ‘prove it’ (season) just because the nature of that I did get in trouble last year and I have to prove to the league, myself and everybody else out there that I deserve to be in this league,” Simpson said. “(The Vikings) believed in me and I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to come back and play football again.”
Both of these players have the tools and the talent to help the Vikings improve upon their dismal results from 2011, but each will be on a short leash and needs to understand the importance that will be placed on their actions moving forward… not their words.