MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — When the NFL draft resumed for the second round on April 28, all eyes were on Florida State running back Dalvin Cook.
A first-round talent with top-10 production, Cook dropped down the board amid character concerns from several off-the-field incidents in high school and college. That led several league observers to believe the more miles he could put between himself and his chaotic home base in South Florida, the better chance he had to realize his incredible potential.
It’s hard to get much farther away than the land of ice and snow in Minnesota, and as Cook looked around the Division II Minnesota State University dorm the Vikings call home for training camp, he said a comfort level has quickly formed.
“I am feeling everything out,” Cook said. “My teammates are making me feel real comfortable and I just think the unique thing about this situation is that we have some good vets that welcome everybody with open arms. They are doing a great job of that and they are making the rookies feel real comfortable, so I am pretty comfortable with my situation.”
The Vikings have long taken pride in establishing a culture for bringing in a player with past concerns and helping him mature and develop into a reliable and productive player. They have done it recently with defensive end Everson Griffen and also brought in veteran receiver Michael Floyd this offseason. Randy Moss, Percy Harvin, Cris Carter … the list goes on and on.
Coach Mike Zimmer talks often about building a roster of focused, hard-working veterans, creating an environment that can nurture a player who may need extra guidance. The Vikings brought in veteran running back Latavius Murray to both compete with Cook for the starting job and show him the ropes. Griffen, tight end Kyle Rudolph, safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Terence Newman are among other veteran leaders in the locker room.
“We’ve got some really good guys on this team,” Zimmer said. “They want to help guys get better because they know it’ll help them and help the team.”
Murray has been in every meeting, but has yet to participate in any offseason work after having ankle surgery in March. He was placed on the physically unable to perform list on Monday, the first day of training camp for Vikings rookies. Murray was signed away from Oakland for a three-year, $15 million deal as a free agent, with $8.55 million guaranteed.
Cook was so impressive during team practices in May and June that Murray acknowledged he needed to get on the field as soon as possible.
“Dalvin, he’s been in the system,” Murray said. “It’s one thing for me to watch from the sideline, but when you’re in it, it’s much easier to learn when you’re able to make the mistakes that I can only see. I would say that they’re ahead of the game right now, so when I do come back I have some making up to do. I have to bust my behind to make sure I set myself apart.”
Both players are competing to fill the shoes of Adrian Peterson’s, the franchise’s career rushing leader who left for New Orleans in free agency. Peterson’s explosive running defined the Vikings’ offense for a decade, and it is no coincidence GM Rick Spielman traded up in the second round to grab Cook and fill a pressing need.
“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,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “That’s another sign of being a pro.”
Cook said he feels an obligation not to let the Vikings down, but would not go near any comparisons to Peterson without having a single practice in pads under his belt.
“That would not be fair to him. He is a future Hall of Famer,” Cook said. “This is my first year in the NFL, I am not as close to him, so I cannot compare myself to him at all, because he is going to go down as one of the greatest backs in history, probably.”
NOTES: The Vikings also placed rookie Shaan Washington on the PUP list and veteran DT Sharrif Floyd on the non-football injury list. Floyd missed all but the 2016 opener after having right knee surgery and then experiencing complications in his recovery. He has missed 20 games over the last three years. … The Vikings also signed OT Arturo Uzdavinis on Monday. Uzdavinis had been with Detroit this summer and spent parts of last season on the practice squads for Jacksonville and Chicago.