EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Dalvin Cook's trademark smile and upbeat personality were on full display Thursday in the Vikings locker room.
The Vikings rookie running back displayed a resilient mindset as he recovers from a season-ending injury.
Cook spoke to the Twin Cities media for the first time since tearing his ACL in Week 4 against the Lions. He vowed that he will return to the field better than his old self.
"I need to come back better than ever. It's all about how you attack it," Cook said. "I feel like it was a blessing in disguise. I take it like that and use all this stuff as motivation and put it into my rehab and go after it.
"That's the only way you're going to get through this process," Cook added. "But it's a good journey, and I'm willing to take on the challenge."
Cook was already plenty good enough before he was injured, as his 354 rushing yards still lead the Vikings. Cook also averaged 4.8 yards per carry and scored twice on the ground.
He was at the tail end of a 10-yard run in the third quarter against Detroit when he made a cut and his leg gave out.
"I made the cut … I had never had a leg injury before, except for like a hamstring … I kind of felt it, and it was like a funny feeling," Cook said. "I kind of knew something was wrong, but it wasn't hurting. I kept telling the trainers, 'I'm good. There ain't nothing wrong with me.'
"But the next day, it got stiff, and I knew something was wrong," Cook added. "So we took care of it."
The 2017 second-round pick underwent surgery shortly thereafter and began his rehab process. He got rid of crutches last week and began lifting weights a few days ago.
"I started back lifting this week. I was dead the first day. I was dead," Cook said with a laugh. "It was good. I was kind of dead, but at the end you feel great. I feel like I'm back into it. I'm around these guys … it's like I've never left."
Cook said he's leaned on plenty of teammates, friends and family for support.
His locker at Winter Park is right next to Teddy Bridgewater's, and Cook watched as the quarterback overcame a gruesome knee injury that was suffered in August 2016. Cook said Bridgewater called him each day after his surgery to keep his spirits up.
"(He told me) just keep my head down and keep working. He's right there next to me every day, pushing me and telling me to keep my head down and keep working," Cook said. "He's been through it. Teddy is just a good guy overall to have in your corner when you're going through some tough times.
"Even if he didn't go through it, he still knows the right thing to say to you to get you through the whole process," Cook added. "It's great having Teddy here with me."
Cook also mentioned the camaraderie he's built with quarterback Sam Bradford in the training room while Bradford is rehabbing a knee injury. Cook said that multiple players with similar injuries have offered words of encouragement.
The Vikings are 5-0 in full games since Cook's injury. Running backs Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray have combined for 570 rushing yards and five touchdowns in Cook's absence.
Cook said he's become the Vikings biggest fan while watching games from home.
"I promise you, if you've been in the house when we're playing, I've been yelling and screaming because they (have been) ballin'," Cook said. "That group, I know what they're capable of and I know what they can do, and they're living right up to the standard.
"They're helping this team win football games, and they're ballin'. We hang with each other every day … me, Latavius, Jet," Cook added. "We're still the same tight group, and I'm glad to have those guys, too. I still keep up with the plays from those guys, still watch film."
Cook said he's taking his rehab day-by-day at this point and that it's too early to set specific goals in regards to when he'll be back at full strength.
But he knows his long-term vision is to be better than ever.
"I'm young. I'll heal up," Cook said. "And I'll be back out there with my team."