*EAGAN, Minn. — *Dalvin Cook’s workload ramped up this week, after he received the green light to participate in team drills at Vikings Organized Team Activity practices.
It was another step in the right direction for the Vikings running back, who suffered a torn ACL in early October at home against the Lions.
And while it has been eight months since his injury, Cook offered assurances and positive vibes Tuesday afternoon while speaking with the Twin Cities media.
“I’m still that same guy. You just have to pick up from where I left off,” Cook said. “I’m just going out there and playing football.
“I’m still Dalvin Cook. I haven’t left. The motivation is still there,” Cook added. “The talent is still there, just a little older – that’s it.”
Cook, a 2017 second-round pick out of Florida State, burst onto the scene by rushing for 354 yards and two scores in three-plus games as a rookie.
But he could only watch the rest of the way as the Vikings went 13-3 and won the NFC North while advancing to the NFC title game.
Cook was on the sidelines for most late-season games, but most of his rehab work was going on behind the scenes.
“You got the good days up, but the bad days are going to come,” Cook said. “That’s when you have to push through those days, and those are going to be the days that are going to make you or break you.
“Those are going to be the days that get you over the hump and set you apart from others,” Cook added. “I just put it like that, in perspective like that. I put those bad days right in front of me, and I go attack it every day.”
In Tuesday’s session that was open to the media, Cook looked like his old self. He took a handoff and cut up the middle, showed some burst going out for a route and even stepped up in pass protection.
Cook smiled wide when asked about getting more involved with his teammates, but cautioned he still has a few more milestones to hit before the season starts.
“The more reps you get the more comfortable you get, especially coming off an injury like that,” Cook said. “The more reps the more you get your feet back under you and the more you get comfortable just being on the field with the guys.
“You go out there and you rehab and you try and get your body back in shape. You think you’re in shape until you go take four reps back to back, and you [think], ‘This is a different type of shape you have to get in,’ ” Cook later added. “Just getting back out there and just getting that feeling back out. Just getting your body back out there and take the steps. It’s a long process. I got a long way to go, and I got to keep working.”
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the team and training staff are taking a measured approach as Cook works his way back into the mix.
“It’s more about getting him around a little bit of bodies flying at him a little bit,” Zimmer said. “It’s not so much trying to figure out what he can do right now. It’s more about trying to get him comfortable around 11 or 22 players around him.”
Once Cook does return to the field for the 2018 season — presumably on Sept. 9 in the home opener against the 49ers — he’ll join a Vikings offense that features both a new offensive coordinator and quarterback.
And Cook had plenty of praise for both John DeFilippo and Kirk Cousins on Tuesday.
“This has been my first week back out there with the team, but I tried to sit back. Kirk, he has a lot going on in the offense and just commanding the offense, but Kirk is social with all his guys. He talks to everybody on the team,” Cook said. “If I want to ask a question, I go straight to Kirk. He’s the captain of the ship, so I go straight to him. He answers me with all ears open, and we’re just building from here. It’s just a start. OTAs was a start for this offense, and we just got to keep building because the ceiling is high.
“Coach DeFilippo just wants to get his guys in space and give them the ball, let us make plays. He just want us to run free,” Cook later added. “There’s a lot green grass for everybody on the field for us to run, so we just got to go out there and make plays and make plays for him because he’s going to call the right stuff. We just have to go make the plays for him.”
Besides Cousins, the Vikings offense will feature a pair of high-caliber wide receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, a vital red zone threat in tight end Kyle Rudolph and running back Latavius Murray, who rushed for 800-plus yards and eight scores in 2017.
The return of Cook, who showed flashes of being a do-it-all type back in his rookie year, could make Minnesota’s offense even more explosive.
“If we run the ball like we’re supposed to, it’s going to do a lot for our receivers,” Cook said. “Kirk, he’s got a knack for the game, and that play-action is something that he’s blessed with. You can’t take that from him. If we run the ball like we’re supposed to, our receivers are going to be happy.”