EAGAN, Minn. – The 2022 offseason is a time of change around Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
New leadership has been hired, free agents have joined or departed Minnesota, and the Vikings headquarters has experienced some cosmetic changes.
Get ready, also, for a new jersey number for Dalvin Cook.
And, if you ask the Vikings running back, maybe even a better Dalvin Cook.
View the best photos of Vikings RB Dalvin Cook from the 2021 season.
Entering his sixth season in purple, Cook confirmed Tuesday he'll be switching jersey numbers from 33 to 4, reclaiming the number he wore throughout his football journey to the NFL.
"Mentally, I'm better in that number. Overall, I think it's a better thing for my family and for everybody around here," Cook said. "[You're] going to see a version that you've never seen before. You're going to see something special.
"It comes with hard work. It doesn't just come with putting the number on," he added. "It comes with putting the work in every day, trusting the process that we've got going on around here and just going on the attack every day, bringing the energy and just being me."
Cook has always emphasized the importance of being his true self, not straying from his identity. For the 26-year-old, wearing the single digit became a part of who he was.
"Not being anything else but Number 4," Cook said. "That's what they call me around here if you didn't know that – they call me '4.' So, back to it."
The numeral is more than a random childhood choice.
Really, it runs in the family.
Cook recalled growing up and watching his older brother, Deandre Burnett, make plays as a quarterback in youth football. Deandre wore 4, so Dalvin wore 4.
"That number means a lot to me. I started playing football because of my [big] brother, and he wore No. 4, and he was like a hero in my eyes when I saw him play football," Cook said.
Even at a young age, Burnett's passion for the game wasn't lost on his younger brother.
"He loved playing football, and I loved being around him," Cook said. "I saw him with that number making plays and said, 'That's the number I'm going to wear for the rest of my life.' "
Although Burnett eventually swapped the gridiron for a basketball court, Cook "carried the legacy on" by wearing No. 4 as he rose through the football ranks. His younger brother James, who's expected to be drafted later this month, also wore the number as a standout at Georgia.
"I kept the number going. Passed it on to my little brother and passed it on to my little cousins," Cook said. "It's like a tradition and a tradition back in Miami."
Cook explained that he attempted to make the switch prior to the 2021 season, when the NFL expanded jersey options for specific positions. The league would have required Cook to buy out the stock of 33 jerseys remaining, though, which he cited would have been about $1.2 million.
"I'd been trying to do it last year, but they tried to take my money from me. That's important nowadays," Cook quipped.
The number swap carries even more meaning for Cook following the passing of his father, James, in December 2020.
"That was a promise I made to him," Cook said. "That I was going to get back in my number – and get back to getting us a Super Bowl around here."
While Vikings fans may need to adjust to seeing Cook in No. 4, it feels only right to his teammates, who Cook said have been using the nickname for multiple years.
Justin Jefferson flashed a broad smile when asked about the change.
" '4' is '4.' That's him. We don't call him '33'; we call him '4,' " Jefferson said. "He grew up with that number, he went to college with that number.
"I feel like that No. 4 gives him [even more] confidence … and he's just feeling comfortable in that number, so I'm definitely excited to see him in that 4," Jefferson added.
Adam Thielen shared a similar reaction.
"I like him in No. 4, too, so it'll be good to see him flying around with that number on," Thielen said. "I'm sure he'll be the same old Dalvin. He's a special football player, a special person, a special teammate."
After waiting for an opportunity to don No. 4 at the highest level of football, Cook doesn't take this moment for granted.
"It's here now," Cook said. "This is my time."