MINNEAPOLIS – Dalvin Cook went barefoot to the postgame press conference room.
"My feet hurt," he said nonchalantly when asked about a lack of shoes. "Gotta give the dogs a break."
Your feet would probably hurt, too, if you rushed for 205 yards in one night.
Cook racked up 222 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns in the Vikings 36-28 defeat of the Steelers on Thursday Night Football.
The spectacular outing fell just 1 yard shy of Cook's career high – and occurred just 11 days after the running back was carted off the field with a shoulder injury at San Francisco.
"He's a warrior," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "He comes out and competes. He's a great leader. He's a great competitor. He wants to play.
"[Vice President of Sports Medicine and Head Athletic Trainer] Eric Sugarman texted him today and said, 'Hey, are you sure you're OK and good to go?' He said, 'I have no regrets, I'm good to go.' He said, 'That's why I do this; I want to play,' " Zimmer added. "That's the kind of guy he is. There was no doubt in his mind he was playing tonight."
Cook said he was rehabbing at home Sunday, watching his teammates play at Detroit and fall to the Lions in heartbreaking fashion.
He felt confident then that he'd be able to play Thursday, and he talked to Sugarman the following day.
"I tell 'Shugs' how I feel, I see the doc, they test me out. The only thing I had to do was go show them my strength was back and everything was back, and I was good," Cook said. "They were still kind of skeptical about it, but they trust and believe that I won't put myself in harm's way, to go out there and not be productive for the team.
"I commend the coaches for believing in me," he added.
It isn't only the coaches who put their trust in Cook, though. His teammates on both sides of the ball know he'll do all he can to help Minnesota succeed.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins wasn't sure what to expect from Cook since he isn't subject to contact during practices – but he also knows to never count "The Chef" out.
"He's certainly gotten banged up in my years playing with him, and he's always come back and tried to fight through things," Cousins said. "He's a really tough football player."
Cook's entire evening impressed, but his 153 yards and pair of touchdowns over the first two quarters sent the Vikings into halftime up 23-0.
Cook also surpassed former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for the franchise record in first-half yards.
It's an achievement Cook doesn't take for granted.
"That's my guy. Since I got here — I watched A.P. before I got here, so I'm definitely just following behind his steps," he said. "Hearing all those [stats], catching his records, that's big.
"A.P. is a legend in my eyes and a lot of people's eyes," Cook added. "I look at him as one of the greats, so to do that is big. Like I said, I commend my o-line up front."
The numbers and records don't hold the same weight, though, if the Vikings don't come out on top.
Minnesota let the game come down to the wire – again – but managed to pull out the victory. Ask Cook, and he'll tell you that's always his number one goal.
"If I had 75 yards and we got a win, I'd be up here saying the same thing. I just want to win, and I know this team has got the same desire I've got," Cook said. "We just want to win games. We want to keep from winning like that. That's what we've got to go correct as a group. The leaders on this team have to keep pushing everybody on the team and clean a lot of stuff up and keep playing some good football."
Thursday night's win improved Minnesota to 6-7 on the season.
Next up for the Vikings is a Monday Night Football contest at Chicago on Dec. 20, and they'll certainly be looking to Cook for another big prime-time performance.
"Sheesh, amazing," linebacker Eric Kendricks said of Cook. "That boy is a warrior. We already know what kind of talent he is in the backfield, and he put it on display today. Having a day."
View game action photos between the Vikings and Steelers during the Thursday Night Football matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.
That's two people who used the same word to describe Cook.
Does he see himself as a warrior?
Cook paused a moment before shrugging his shoulders.
"Whatever a Viking is," Cook said.