Vikings' Cook is working his way back

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 3, 2012 - 1:06 AM

Banished from the team in 2011, Chris Cook is trying to restore team's faith in him.

Tossing medicine balls, pulling ropes and running wind sprints before 8:30 a.m. on May 2 probably never felt better to an NFL player.

Chris Cook didn't seem to mind, given where he could have been if he hadn't been found not guilty of felony domestic assault charges two months ago.

"I definitely appreciate it a lot more than I have in the past," the Vikings cornerback said Wednesday between workout sessions at the Winter Park. "This is what I love to do, even though this isn't the really fun part. It's kind of hard, but I love doing this. This is the part of the year when you get better."

The Vikings' offseason conditioning program began April 23. Cook showed up April 20 to work out on his own. Part of it is an eagerness to get better. Another part is the understanding that the road back into the good graces of his teammates is going to be a long one full of actions, not words.

"Yeah, definitely, I feel like I have to earn their trust again," Cook said. "I definitely let them down last year by being in the situation I was in and missing the 10 games. I'm really looking forward to earning their trust and being a contributing factor to the team."

A second-round draft pick in 2010, Cook was beginning to blossom after an injury marred rookie season when he was arrested the day before the Vikings played the Packers in the sixth game of last season. He never stepped foot on the field or in the practice facility again in 2011.

And his interaction with the Vikings during his lengthy legal battle was limited to minimal contact from the team and only a few phone calls and text messages from teammates saying, "We're still here for you, looking out for you," Cook said.

Cook began the healing process with coach Leslie Frazier long before the offseason conditioning program began.

"It was positive; he's a very encouraging man, and I respect him a lot," Cook said. "He's not really been down on me. He's very supportive of me."

With nearly the entire team now participating in the offseason conditioning program, Cook is just now seeing many teammates for the first time since that Friday walk-through the day before he was arrested. The long dreadlocks are gone, but his level of conditioning appears to be the same.

"You can tell he's trying really hard," quarterback Christian Ponder said. "We all make mistakes. Obviously that was a tough situation he put himself in. But I've talked to him -- we've all talked to him -- and it seems like he has learned.

"He's such a great asset on the field. I think he's going to be fine because he's doing everything he can to earn the respect from all of us."

Right tackle Phil Loadholt said teammates have been willing to forgive Cook.

"He made some poor decisions, as we all have, but maybe not to that extent," Loadholt said. "But we know Chris. We know what kind of guy he is. That's why he's still around. We know he's going to take the right steps to do the right thing with us."

Center John Sullivan said teammates are watching to see how Cook responds to being given a second chance by Frazier. The Vikings stood behind Cook through the entire process, and league spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed Thursday that the league has closed the book on the situation and will not be punishing Cook.

"We'll welcome him with open arms if he comes back out here and puts the work in," Sullivan said. "If he helps us win, we're all for it. The decision that was made regarding that situation wasn't made by players. It was coaches and front-office people. Our job as players is to welcome him back here, encourage him and rally around him so we can have a successful 2012 season."

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