Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD writer and editor of purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, Joe Oberle.
On Monday afternoon, the Vikings first practice in which the players wore pads and were allowed to hit, running back Dalvin Cook caught the first pass in the left flat (that I had seen him make) all offseason. In fact he caught a second one and turned it upfield. Previously, all the passes had been to the right, presumably to protect his left knee (which would take the pressure of that cut). For me, this was a great sign that his left knee was recovering nicely since his ACL surgery from last season.
Coach Mike Zimmer had said after the morning walk through that Cook was going to get a little run in the padded practice, so it was nice to see him play without any restrictions in the first practice where there was hitting going on.
“He’s going to get a good dose today,” Zimmer said of Cook. “We’re going to monitor him a little bit. He needs to get banged around a little bit.”
“Banged around a little bit” might be a good description, as the defense still isn’t taking players to the field much—and you can be sure they aren’t taking Cook to the field at all since the coaches don’t want to be reckless with their star running back.
But for Cook, it was welcome relief after months of rehab to get out with the players and feel like a football player again.
“I was definitely anticipating, getting back out, getting that [first] lick in—just getting back out here, and getting back in pads,” Cook said. “That’s just a good feeling. I anticipated it; the day came; and I feel great about it.”
The team was ready to do some hitting, as it has been hands off thus far, and the quarterbacks still wear red jerseys. So the opportunity to push the offense around was welcomed.
“I think everyone loves it. It’s like Christmas morning for some of them,” safety Harrison Smith said.
Cook was told that some believe the defense looks forward to the first day of pads more than the offense because they are the ones dishing out the hits. No so fast, according to Cook.
“We’ve got pads, too. We like it, too,” he said. “Going against a defense like that, it’s always good for me and whoever else is trying to get better. That defense is always going to make us better, and I am just glad I am competing against them every day.”
Cook has been ticking off the milestones all spring with his rehab. And lately more milestones have still have been coming. Getting out of the knee brace was one, and wearing pads with his teammates in practice quickly followed. So what is the next milestone?
“Get to week one. Let’s do it. That’s it,” Cook said.
For much of the spring it looked as though Cook was sent out to the left only as a decoy and that plays to the right flats were designed to help him build his confidence. But that confidence was on full display at TCO Performance Center Monday, as Cook caught passes to both sides of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He was asked if he still nervous or hesitant to make a cut, but Cook, who due to his long rehab, is probably more familiar with the new training facility than other Vikings player, has left those thoughts behind.
“You can’t be,” he said. “That’s one of the things . . . you just got to go full go and you got to live with the results. I put a lot of work in and a lot time into this thing, and you can’t be hesitant. I’m not hesitant at all. I’m ready to go. They know they got to kind of tempo me down a little bit, but that’s just how I am. They take good care of me out here, and that’s why I love this organization.”
Is there a preseason game in his near future?
“I don’t know what they got planned for me,” Cook said. “I am going to take this thing day-by-day and just keep getting better from there.”
So far, so good.