As Vikings cornerback Chris Cook enters the final season of his rookie contract, he is mindful that his NFL future hangs in the balance – whether that future is with the Vikings or another team. Through his first three seasons, Cook has missed more games (26) than he has played (22) and he knows that millions of dollars could be at stake if he can stay healthy and put together a full season that will give teams a better perspective as to his potential as a player.
On Wednesday, Cook spoke of raising the bar on his 2013 season and taking his game to a higher level. What will it take to accomplish that?
"It definitely involves interceptions," Cook said. "I don't really harp on it, but I'm expecting plays to come my way, and when they come my I'll make plays."
There's a significant problem with that goal. Cook's next interception will be his first NFL interception.
In the NFL, there are certain stats that translate into big-money contracts. For defensive ends, it is sacks. For running backs and wide receivers, it is 1,000-yard seasons. For quarterbacks, it's passer ratings and touchdowns. For cornerbacks, it's interceptions … and Cook has yet to register one.
Just as sacks aren't the true measure of a defensive end, interceptions aren't the be-all and end-all for corners. When offensive coordinators fear a cornerback like Darrelle Revis, they just don't throw his way. Deion Sanders was a dominant player because many teams refused to throw his way because they feared a Can-Can dance to the end zone if they did. While Cook doesn't strike terror into opposing offensive coordinators, he has done a solid job when lined up opposite Calvin Johnson – the biggest threat at wide receiver in the league.
Asked if he has been frustrated that he hasn't posted an interception in his NFL career, Cook acknowledged that but added that he has brought other skill sets to the table at his position.
"It's kind of surprising, seeing that this is my fourth year now," Cook said. "I don't really worry about it. I make plays other ways, whether it be tackles or breaking (passes) up – just playing faster than the other guy across the ball from me."
Cook has set a goal of making his 2013 season one that will launch the remainder of his career and he relishes the opportunity to get that first pick – which he hopes to follow up with several more before the season ends. When that day comes, he's not giving the ball back. When he gets his hands on that first interception, nobody will be able to pry it out of his hands. He's taking it to the sideline and eventually taking it home.
"You have to keep it; that's a tradition," Cook said with a smile. "The first interception, you have to keep the ball."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.