MANKATO, Minn. — On his first day in pads since the Orange Bowl, Dalvin Cook knew what he wanted to do. He hoped no one would get hurt, but …
“You put the pads on,” he said, “and you want to be as physical as you can.”
Cook was impressive Saturday as the Minnesota Vikings opened the full-pads phase of training camp. The second-round pick from Florida State lowered his shoulder a few times, displayed nice explosion on inside runs and made clear that he will be a tough player to tackle at the NFL level. Most importantly for him — and for fantasy players — he continued to receive all of the first-team repetitions because of injuries to veterans Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon.
Murray (ankle) remains on the physically unable to perform list and hasn’t practiced with the Vikings since signing this spring. McKinnon has been sidelined since suffering an undisclosed injury Thursday. At the early stages of a long competition, Cook has gained the edge simply by staying on the field. Currently, his backup is veteran Bishop Sankey.
“[Cook] tries to make the most of every rep he gets,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “You see him do a lot of things really well, and if he does make a mistake, he’s able to correct it and move on. That’s another sign of being a pro. If you do this long enough or if you run enough plays, you’re going to make a few errors. The key is to correct the error, move on fast and don’t make it again. We’ve seen all those elements to his game, and I think he’s going to have a bright future.”
Asked his early thoughts on the Vikings’ backfield, coach Mike Zimmer provided a typically blunt response.
“I haven’t seen Latavius other than on tape,” Zimmer said. “Dalvin has shown a lot of really good things so far. We’ll see.”
Murray signed a three-year contract in March, six weeks before the Vikings drafted Cook as part of their plan to replace Adrian Peterson. Murray soon had ankle surgery, which the Vikings said they knew was pending, and has not yet been cleared to practice. There is nothing particularly harmful about a veteran running back missing practice time, but there is little doubt that Cook’s continued availability is helping him make a strong early impression.
“I think I’m getting a pretty good dose of it,” he said. “And it’s running smooth right now.”