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Murray, Cook Embrace Position Battle at Training Camp

MANKATO, Minn. —Latavius Murray was a little anxious as he approached the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus on Sunday afternoon. 

This is the running back's first training camp with the Vikings, and first on a college campus, so it's easy to understand his butterflies.

Fellow running back Dalvin Cook also arrived for his first training camp with the Vikings, as the second-round draft pick is prepping for his first season in the NFL.

As both players get acclimated to new surroundings. including a dorm room and the daily grind of camp, both running backs are also embracing the eventual position battle that will unfold over the next few weeks that will also include Jerick McKinnon.

"We are going to push each other, and I think the good thing about this backfield is that we have some workhorses in the backfield," Cook said. "We have guys that are going to push each other to the next level and are going to get the best out of each other, so having those two guys in the meeting room with me is good because they never let you get comfortable with yourself."

Added Murray: "For me, I want to be the best player I can be, and I want to be taking the snaps and be the No. 1 back. And I know each other guy wants to do that, as well."

Murray reported to camp Sunday with rookies and other players after he missed all of spring practices with an ankle injury.

The fifth-year running back who had 12 rushing touchdowns last season said he is feeling healthy but wasn't sure when he would make his debut on the practice field.

When he does though, Murray is well-aware he has some ground to make up against Cook and McKinnon.

"They've got the upper hand … they've been out there practicing," Murray said. "Dalvin has been in the system. It's one thing for me to be on the sideline, but when you're in it, you learn a lot.

"It's much easier to learn when you go out there and when you're able to make the mistakes," Murray added. "I can only see, but I'm not doing it right now. I would say they're ahead of the game right now. So when I do come back, I've got some making up to do. And I have to bust my behind to make sure, to set myself apart."

Cook, meanwhile, did see the field during Organized Team Activities and minicamp and is looking to build off a strong start to his introduction to the NFL. 

He holds Florida State's single-season rushing record and broke Warrick Dunn's career rushing record with the Seminoles. The two-time All-American totaled 4,464 yards and 46 touchdowns on 687 carries (6.5 yards per carry) and added 79 receptions for 935 yards in his college career. 

"For them to have confidence in me, it means a lot to me and that is why I pride myself in not letting them down," Cook said. "To have confidence in me, means a lot to me, so I am going to give it my all each and every day.

"Every game, every snap, every meeting, to prove to these people why they drafted me and why they had so much confidence in me," Cook added. "I am going to prove myself to them and give it my all."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was one of many impressed by Cook's speed and athleticism this spring.

Zimmer gave a simple answer when asked what he wants to see from the rookie over the next few weeks.

"More of the same," Zimmer said. "I thought he had a really good spring. The thing with running backs is the vision and acceleration to the hole are always big.

"When he has a crease to be able to accelerate through it, I thought he did a really good job with those things," Zimmer added. "For a guy of shorter stature, in college at least, he was a physical back. He carried his pads out in front of him. So, him taking the hits, delivering the hits and holding on to the football."

The Vikings ranked last in the NFL with 1,205 rushing yards in 2016 and averaged a league-worst 3.2 yards per carry.

Murray and Cook will be counted upon to help boost the running game, while also being fresh faces at a position that was long defined by Adrian Peterson, who is now in New Orleans.

Both players said they were focused on their new chapters in Minnesota and less on replacing the Vikings all-time leading rusher.

"To be honest, I don't think anyone's looking at it that way," Murray said. "I think obviously we know that that guy was great in that uniform, but I think for everyone in the running back room right now, it's about the individual."

Added Cook: "He is a future Hall of Famer. In my first year in the NFL, I am not as close to him, so I cannot compare myself to him at all because he is going to go down as one of the greatest backs in history probably so I just have just got to go out there and work and I cannot have that in my head."

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