EAGAN, Minn. – Dalvin Cook is entering his third pro season but enjoying what feels like his first “normal” offseason and spring.
The running back returned to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center along with numerous teammates Monday to start the voluntary offseason workout program. After learning the ropes as a rookie and last year rehabbing an ACL injury, Cook is feeling happy and healthy.
“I actually feel like myself and worked on things I needed to work on — my positioning and angles and catching the ball – [not just] rehabbing,” Cook told Twin Cities media members Tuesday. “I got to work on the little things I needed to work on and get better as a person and as a player. It definitely was a great offseason for me, as far as attacking things.”
Cook called his confidence level “through the roof” and said he appreciates being back in the building and turning the page to a new season.
The 2019 Vikings offense will be led by a new-look coaching staff. In addition to removing the interim tag from Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski’s title, the Vikings also brought in Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Rick Dennison and quarterback coach Klint Kubiak.
Specifically looking at the résumé of Gary Kubiak, Cook is excited about what he can learn from the longtime coach.
“When you see him in the room, he’s so cool, calm and collected. When you watch the things he’s done … his track record speaks for itself,” Cook said. “The guys that he’s had before me, he’s taken running backs to the next level. I believe in him and everything he has planned for the running backs and everything he has planned for the offense.
“We’re going to buy into it 100 percent and do what we have to do,” Cook continued. “His track record speaks for itself, and we’re happy to have it in the room.”
While it’s impossible at this point to predict exactly what Minnesota’s offense will look like under Stefanski and with the Kubiak influence, it’s no secret that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has emphasized more of a balance between the run and the pass.
Cook, the longest-tenured Viking in the running back room since the departure of Latavius Murray in free agency, said a heavier focus on the run shows a belief from the coaches.
“If that’s what they want to do, then we’re going to get it done,” Cook said. “It shows the confidence they have in us, and we’re not going to let them down. We have everything we need to get it done.
“Everybody knows what Coach Zim’ is all about. It’s about establishing ourselves running the football and then getting the ball downfield to our playmakers’ hands,” he added. “It’s a smart group, and we all know what he wants the offense to look like … he wants to run the football. We’ve got to be ready to tote the rock.”
Cook is currently joined in the position room by former Detroit Lion Ameer Abdullah, whom the Vikings signed last November, along with two second-year backs in Roc Thomas and Mike Boone. Fullback C.J. Ham is also returning.
View photos of the Vikings' offense during their offseason workouts at TCO Performance Center.
And don’t forget about the possibility of Minnesota adding a running back through next week’s NFL Draft or with an undrafted rookie free agent.
It’s safe to say Cook will be the Vikings starter, but he fully anticipates – at least to a degree – running the ball by committee.
“You definitely don’t want to run your No. 1 running back into the ground. You definitely need a running back that can come in and do some of the things he can do and hold onto the lead. It’s definitely a two-back league,” Cook said. “In my eyes, I think it’s a group, and if you can have two guys that can run the football, then your offense is productive. That’s not a drop-off.”
Whatever the group ends up looking like, Cook is excited to get to work on erasing the remnants of a disappointing 2018 season.
“This was a long offseason. I know a lot of the guys are happy to be back, you can see it in their faces and the way they’re working,” Cook said. “[Last year is] still in our back pocket and still in the back of our minds.
“The main goal is to win the Super Bowl, and we left that on the table,” Cook added. We’ve got a bitter taste in our mouths. If we don’t want that bitter taste, then we have to go work our tails off and do what we have to do to achieve our goals. That’s what we’re going to do.”