Dalvin Cook and the Vikings wasted no time unveiling the second-year running back more than 11 months recovered from the torn ACL in his left knee.
Cook had four touches in the first four plays, stacking up 24 yards of an eventual 95 total yards for the Vikings during Sunday’s 24-16 win against the San Francisco 49ers. Cook didn’t rest until he was 15 plays deep. He took a seat in the fourth quarter after shouldering more than 50 snaps on his surgically repaired knee in his first game back.
His workload and production against the 49ers — including a run of 15 yards and catches for 12, 15 and 17 yards — left no doubt about his full recovery.
“I know the type of player I can be,” Cook said. “The Vikings know the type of potential I got. I just got to keep getting better every week and keep living up to it, which I am.”
The struggle was still there at times. Cook didn’t find much room to run behind the interior offensive line, which was tasked with blocking three first-round picks in the 49ers’ DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead.
Cook had just 5 yards on the first four carries, until he finally broke free up the middle for a 15-yard run reminiscent of Adrian Peterson leaving tacklers in his wake. The only problem was Cook got stripped at the end, leading to a lost fumble.
“I thought he had some good runs,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Sometimes there wasn’t anything there, but he ran hard. The one ball he fumbled, that was going to be a great run until he fumbled. He hasn’t had a lot of contact. We’ll get some more. I think this game will help him a lot.”
Cook averaged 2.5 yards on 16 carries, doing most of his damage as a receiver. His 55 receiving yards on six catches were the second most in the offense, trailing only Adam Thielen’s 102 receiving yards.
The fumble, Cook said, happened right after he lost his shoe.
“Trying to make a play,” Cook said. “I was close. I think if I had my shoe on, it would’ve been better. I couldn’t really get my feet down because my shoe was off, but I have to take care of the football.”
Cook played Sunday with a heavy heart as his uncle, Anthony Jones, a Florida International running back, remains in a medically induced coma after he was a victim of a drive-by shooting in Opa-locka, Fla., on Thursday afternoon.
Cook said Sunday’s performance was inspired by Jones, the son of Cook’s grandmother, Betty Cook. The two grew up together under Betty Cook’s roof. Another victim, Mershawn Miller, is Cook’s cousin and also an FIU football player. Miller was released Friday while Jones remains hospitalized. Cook said he might travel back to Florida this week to visit Jones.
“That game right there, going out there, competing, playing my heart out, that’s what he want,” Cook said. “That’s what I went out there and did.”