Cook eager to face ‘crazy accurate' Rodgers

Vikings CB Chris Cook got thrown into the fire in his return from a broken arm by covering Andre Johnson last week. This week, Cook has another matchup he's been anticipating ever since Aaron Rodgers "picked on" Cook. The cornerback had high praise for Rodgers and the Packers' receivers.

Typically when a player comes back from an injury, a team eases him back into the action, especially when he has missed six weeks of action when the hitting is fierce and conditioning is key.

Yet, Chris Cook was used generously when came back last week after the Vikings took advantage of a new rule this year that allowed the team to place one player on injured reserve with the designation to return. After breaking his arm in the Oct. 25 Thursday night game, the Vikings opted to make Cook that player.

From Cook's perspective, this was an easier injury to return from. Unlike the injuries that negated his rookie season, when he tore both meniscus tendons in separate incidents, returning from a broken arm wasn't as difficult a rehab because, aside from needing time to let the broken bone mend, he could do all of the other things innate to the job of playing cornerback.

"It was a bone, it wasn't like a muscle tear," Cook said. "I wasn't worried about it as long as the bone healed properly. It was going according to plan all the time (in the rehabilitation process), so I wasn't worried about having to stay on I.R."

When a player is returning from a knee or a hamstring or an ankle injury, there is an adjustment period to going from practice speed to game speed. But given that he had the physical ability to do his conditioning and drill training, Cook didn't believe that he needed to be weaned back into the lineup. "I don't think I have too much rust on me right now," Cook said. "I was doing all the things I was supposed to do – I was doing footwork (drills) every day. I had two weeks to practice before I actually had to play. That helped a lot to knock some of the rust, if any, off."

In his return Sunday, not only did Cook make his comeback to the starting lineup, he was assigned to shadow Houston's primary passing threat – 100-catch receiver Andre Johnson. One of the game's premier receivers, it was a tall order for Cook – and the Vikings coaching staff had no intention of easing him back into the fray. Cook took two-thirds of the defensive snaps – second only to Antoine Winfield among cornerbacks.

Cook and his teammates knew he would going to be counted on heavily to spy Johnson.

"That was the game plan throughout the whole week," Cook said. "I knew I was coming back to get prepared to play him. I was doing a little bit of extra conditioning just to make sure I could maximize how many reps I would have last week."

Cook's next challenge will be more conventional. He anticipates the Vikings reverting to their standard practice of lining up on the same side of the field regardless of which receivers come their way. But the problem with the Packers is that a cornerback can line up with a bevy of receivers. On one play it could be Jordy Nelson. On the next play, Greg Jennings. On the next, Randall Cobb. On the next, James Jones. On the next, Donald Driver. It can get head-spinning after a while.

"They have a great core group of guys," Cook said. "From one to five, they could all be starters on any other team in the league."

What makes the receiver corps so lethal for Green Bay is the trigger man – quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Cook is incredibly impressed with what he sees on film of Rodgers – to the point that he believes the Packers made the right decision when they opted to go with Rodgers as opposed to a certain future Hall of Famer.

"He's Brett Favre-like, but I think he makes better decisions," Cook said. "He's crazy accurate. That's one of the things that stands out most about him is his accuracy. He can put balls in places that other guys can't put it. It's amazing to me. Every time I watch him, I'm just like, ‘This guy is great.'"

It's that "crazy accurate" ability of Rodgers that can get into the head of a cornerback. If you're going to jump a route and try to intercept a pass, you had better be right, because the consequences of a miscalculation can be devastating.

"If you're going to take a chance with him, you better get it, because he's going to put in on the money every time," Cook said.

Cook doesn't need any motivation to face Rodgers. He's only done so once, following his dual meniscus injuries as a rookie. Due to injuries and his 2011 suspension, he has only faced Rodgers once in his career – and was targeted often by the Packers. This time around, he's eagerly anticipating Rodgers and the Packers offense.

"I've been looking forward to this game since my rookie year," Cook said. "The only time that I played him was when I came back from both of my knee surgeries and they kind of picked on me a little. I've been waiting on this one."

With so much on the line, Rodgers may well target Cook like his did the only other time they met. This time around, however, Cook will be ready, willing and (he hopes) able to take on that challenge.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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