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Dalvin Cook's Attack of ACL Rehab Leading to Progress

EAGAN, Minn. —Dalvin Cook showed more than glimpses of the threat he can pose to defenses to start the 2017 season.

Ever since his rookie campaign was stopped in its tracks in just its fourth game, Cook has been about showing a promise.

The running back vowed to Vikings Director of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman and the Vikings athletic training staff that he was "going to attack this thing 100 percent."

"With the staff that they put around me, there was no chance that I wasn't going to come back better and attack this thing," Cook said Tuesday in his first session with media members since the end of the season. "I've got a great staff around me, great support system, and they've just been encouraging me every day."

That doesn't mean it's been completely easy for the second-round selection who rushed for 354 yards and two touchdowns on 74 attempts to open his pro career.

"It's a process, it's a journey, something that you've got to trust yourself and know that you did everything in your power to get your knee back," Cook said. "I attacked this thing every day and did what I needed to do to get to this point. I had no doubt when I first took the field that it was where I wanted to be."

After Cook participated in the offseason on-field strength and conditioning with offensive teammates at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, Sugarman provided an update on Cook, who is six-and-a-half months removed from surgery.

Sugarman said Cook is "right in what we consider the sweet spot for rehab, really doing all functional activities at this time. He's doing rehab with the players in the offseason program, and he's been doing his rehab with Tom Hunkele, who is our [Coordinator of Rehabilitation], and [Mark Uyeyama], who is our strength coach.

"Dalvin has knocked the rehab out of the park," Sugarman continued. "He's done a great job. He's been here every day since the injury occurred post op and really hasn't missed a beat in transitioning from Winter Park to this new, beautiful facility. He's been here with a smile on his face every day. Give him the credit because he's put in all of the work to get to the point where he's at."

Sugarman said the Vikings belief Cook will participate in Organized Team Activity practices and minicamp on a limited basis.

"The plan is, for him hopefully, when he gets to training camp, he'll be about nine-and-a-half months post-op at that time and hopefully he'll be a participant just like everybody else," said Sugarman, who added he didn't think there would be a reason that Cook would still be sidelined by Week 1.

That's all encouraging news and major progress from the initial days after surgery, for the player and athletic trainer.

"It's been fun to work with Dalvin to get to know him personally, but also to watch how he has attacked this rehab," Sugarman said. "It's tough early on. I'm sure he'll tell you, the first few weeks when he came back, he probably was wondering if he'd ever walk normal again, and there were probably a few days where he was ready to kill me when I had to put pressure on his knee to get his range of motion back."

Cook confirmed, saying, "Those first weeks are challenging."

"You question yourself, 'Do I still want to do this?' Because you've got Sug' pushing on your leg, and you're ready to hit him across the head. It's a lot. It's an injury that can make you or break you. I chose the route that it wasn't going to break me."

Cook said he celebrated the success of the Vikings, who went 13-3 and won the NFC North in 2017. He immersed himself in learning more about football and his determination.

"You learn a lot about the game, you dig deep and you soul search," Cook said. "You say, 'What do you have in you? How hard do you want this? How much do you want this?' I had to dig deep about a lot of that stuff. I'm still searching for a lot of stuff, but the guys around me are helping this process be easy."

Cook and Sugarman both know that the big hurdle — being able to cut and spin at full speeds to make defenders miss — remains.

"Whatever plan they've got for me, I'm going to keep attacking this thing every day," Cook said. "I'm going to keep coming in with my hard hat on, coming in to work with a smile on my face because this is what I love to do. This is the game that I signed up for. Injuries come with the game, and I'm going to take this thing day-by-day and keep moving forward."

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