Forty-six days after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook still isn't far enough along in the rehab process to be setting goals for when he wants to be back on the field.
He has done enough work at this point, though, to believe he is capable of returning "better than ever."
"That's truly my opinion," Cook said in his first public comments since he tore his ACL on Oct. 1 against the Detroit Lions. "It's just all about how you attack this thing. I just feel like it was a blessing in disguise: I probably needed a break from all the hits I was taking in college, or something like that. I just take it like that. I use all this stuff as motivation, just put it in my rehab and go after it. That's the only way you're going to get through this process. It's tough, but it's a good journey, and I'm willing to take on this challenge."
Cook had run for 354 yards on his first 74 carries of the season, but his final rushing attempt triggered his injury, when he tried to cut on Lions safety Tavon Wilson in the middle of the U.S. Bank Stadium turf. Cook instinctively grabbed his left knee as his leg buckled, and Wilson jarred the ball loose as Cook was going to the turf, for a fumble that set up the Lions' decisive touchdown.
"I'd never had a leg injury, except for like a hamstring," Cook said. "It was a funny feeling when I felt it. I kind of knew something was wrong, but it just wasn't hurting, so I kept telling the trainers, 'I'm good.' … The next day, it kind of stiffened up, and I knew something was wrong, so we took care of that."
Dr. James Andrews performed surgery on Cook's knee on Oct. 9. The following day, Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman said he'd "hope to expect [Cook] at training camp next year."
Bridgewater can wait
While Case Keenum prepares to start his eighth game of the season at quarterback for the Vikings, Teddy Bridgewater will again be Keenum's backup Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams, as the former first-round pick continues to bide his time after his return from the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Bridgewater said he continues to "trust the process" for his recovery from the noncontact knee injury he suffered in practice on Aug. 30, 2016. On Sunday, he'd called it "very important" that he play at some point this season. On Thursday, though, he made it clear he doesn't want his potential return to game action to eclipse what the Vikings are doing as a team.
"I don't want this to be about me," he said. "It's about us. We're sitting in a good position right now, pushing for the playoffs. Hopefully home-field advantage or something like that. You can't take the attention away from that."
On Wednesday, when asked what had made Rams quarterback Jared Goff so successful, coach Mike Zimmer said the team's method for handling Goff was probably similar to what college teams do with their QBs in a hurry-up offense.
"He's reading the coverages. They get up to the line quickly and they probably tell him what it is going in," Zimmer said. "Then he checks to a different play, like the colleges do. So he has a good idea of what is going on."
On Thursday, Zimmer hinted he had been given some intelligence about the Rams' operation.
"We were told [that's what they're doing]," Zimmer said with a laugh.
According to Football Outsiders, the Rams average only 24.07 seconds between plays in the first half, the fastest tempo in the league.
"Sometimes they go on quick count, or they'll pretend they're on quick count, and they'll go on three or something, move the formation," Zimmer said. "Hopefully it's loud in there and they can't do that too much."
Sendejo out again
Safety Andrew Sendejo missed his second consecutive day of practice because of groin and hamstring injuries. The 30-year-old is the only Vikings player to miss both days of practice so far this week, and his availability for Sunday's game could hinge on whether he's able to do anything on Friday.
Anthony Harris, who would likely fill in for Sendejo, was limited for the second consecutive day because of a hamstring injury.