Vikings running back Dalvin Cook’s focus is in his weekly routine to stay healthy. How else can the NFL rookie continue to take the league by storm?
So how is Cook feeling after his 32 touches for 169 yards against the Buccaneers?
“I’m good, man,” Cook said with a smile. “I feel like I’m back at Florida State.”
That’s welcomed news if you’re a Vikings follower, since only one NFL running back has been leaned on more than Cook through three weeks of the season. Cook’s 71 touches (61 carries, 10 receptions) trail only Los Angeles Rams star running back Todd Gurley (76 touches) for the league’s biggest workload in a backfield so far.
Cook noted his newfound necessities, like massages and cold tubs, when asked Monday about his most challenging task in making the NFL leap.
“It’s all about sticking to a routine,” Cook said. “This thing roll around fast. You got a game coming up Sunday you got to get ready for, and you just got done banging and getting after it last Sunday. You got to get your body ready and going soon. At this level, things get much more physical.”
Turns out, though, Cook is hard for opponents to hit. He’s even harder to take down. Cook forced six missed tackles from Tampa Bay’s defense. Nearly all of his 97 rushing yards came after initial contact, according to Pro Football Focus.
“The hole may be this big, but he can get skinny, pick his feet up and accelerate through there,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “You don’t get a lot of clean shots on this guy. He’s got a lot of wiggle and acceleration.”
Bradford, Zimmer chat
Quarterback Sam Bradford was back at Winter Park on Monday, but the Vikings still don’t have a clear answer for if he will be able to practice this week or when he can return to game action, according to Zimmer.
“I had a nice talk with him today,” Zimmer said. “Just a nice, easy talk.”
Bradford, who had been limited in five practices since the Sept. 11 season-opening victory over the Saints, most recently missed Friday’s practice to get a second opinion on his injured left knee from Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., a meeting which confirmed the Vikings’ belief that Bradford’s knee does not have any structural damage.
Sloter feels ready
Current backup quarterback Kyle Sloter wasn’t sure what he was hearing during some of Pat Shurmur’s play calls last week at Pittsburgh. That wasn’t an issue against the Buccaneers, Sloter said Monday.
“First thing I did was come off the field and talk to [Shurmur] about how comfortable I felt with the play calls,” Sloter said. “This week I really went back and put in some long hours and tried to understand the playbook as much as I could. This game I felt it all came together.”
For nearly the whole game, the Vikings defense played with a lead, thanks to quarterback Case Keenum commanding an offense that jumped out to a 21-3 lead by halftime. That’s a welcomed change of pace for Vikings defenders, who have grown accustom to the nerves of keeping their team in close games.
“It was definitely good anytime they put points on the board, it just gives us that much more confidence,” linebacker Anthony Barr said. “We’re not playing tight. We’re not afraid to make mistakes.”
Rhodes went ‘too far’
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes has now held two of the NFL’s best receivers, Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, to 67 and 62 yards, respectively, without a touchdown to either. But Rhodes said he went “too far” at one point in Sunday’s win, when he was flagged for taunting Evans after Trae Waynes intercepted Jameis Winston.
“It was just heat of the moment, heat of the battle,” Rhodes said. “One of those moments you’re out there fighting for your teammates. You and your opponent going at it, went too far.”