EAGAN, Minn. — Dalvin Cook had fun donning an apron this summer and took pride in shedding his leg brace by training camp.
The second-year running back reported to Verizon Vikings Training Camp on Tuesday and participated in practices Wednesday and Thursday without a brace that extended above and below his surgically repaired left knee.
“I really got comfortable [without the brace] over the offseason,” Cook said after the afternoon session. “I told myself, ‘I know the work I put in, I’m going to test it out before I get back to camp,’ so I tested it out and felt comfortable with it. I just went forward and let [Vikings Director of Sports Medicine Eric Sugarman] and the training staff know that I wasn’t going to be wearing it. They are comfortable with it as long as I was comfortable with it.”
Cook, usually cool and calm, admitted he had a few nerves.
“That’s just going through the process because you’re coming off a very serious injury, and it’s your knee that you’re talking about,” Cook said. “You need that thing to operate your body. I was nervous, but as I gradually got through it, I got comfortable with it.”
After dazzling in his first three pro games, Cook tore his ACL without contact against the Lions in Week 4, ending his rookie campaign with 354 yards and two touchdowns on 74 attempts.
Cook was among rookies and select other players who reported to camp Tuesday. Remaining veterans are scheduled to report Friday and practice Saturday. He said he is looking forward to the arrival of the veterans, followed by the team’s first full-padded practice next Monday.
“It’s going to be another milestone for me,” Cook said. “This process is all about milestones and stacking up the days and just putting it all together to lead up to Week 1. Once we put pads on, that’s going to be another milestone for me. I can’t wait until we put them on.”
Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo said the Vikings are “not giving him a ton of reps” but added the team is liking what it is seeing out of the 2017 second-round selection.
“He looks really good,” said DeFilippo, who was hired this offseason. “Looking forward to him getting the pads on and seeing where Dalvin is at. We expect him to be full-go.
“He’s taking individual [drills], and he’s getting reps here and there,” DeFilippo added. “He got in to the blitz period yesterday, and he was assignment perfect. I think that when you see a young player that understands protections the way he does at an early age, I think that’s really unique. Obviously he has the pass-catching ability that we’ve all seen, but a lot of times when you play that running back position, I think pass protection sometimes gets overlooked.”
All four Vikings quarterbacks on the roster also have practiced the past two days. Kirk Cousins said Thursday that he doesn’t think he’s quite seen the “Dalvin Cook that everyone who has been here knows” but is looking forward to it.
“That’s what I’m excited to see as we get going,” Cousins said. “I’ve been told by the guys who have been here that he has some elite movement skills and that he can really make a difference. When you’re talking about a starting running back, running the ball, catching the ball out of the back field, protecting, it makes a big difference.”
Cook said he will continue to work with coaches and the training staff on his progression.
“The whole coaching staff, the whole training staff, they have a plan for me, and I know that,” Cook said. “Whatever plan they have for me, my goal is to execute it. I’m going to do that 100 percent, and I’m going to do that full-speed. Whatever plan they have for me, I’m just going to execute it.”