CB Cook waiting for green light

Chris Cook was the talk of Vikings training camp and appeared to be in line to win the starting cornerback job before a meniscus injury sidelined him last month. With Miami coming to town Sunday, Cook said he is pushing to get back on the field, but is still waiting for the training staff to give him the go-ahead.

For much of training camp and into the preseason, the talk around Vikings camp consistently centered on the performance of rookie cornerback Chris Cook. Drafted to be an eventual starter, Cook did his best to set himself up to be the starter when the Vikings opened the regular season last week against New Orleans.

Instead, a meniscus injury sidelined Cook for the first game and his availability for this week against Miami remains a question mark. Cook said he felt good in practice Wednesday and hopes to get back on the field as soon as possible, but is taking a cautious approach to his rehab.

"It feels a lot better," Cook said. "Everything right now is kind of day to day. I'm listening to what the training staff says and, when they give me the green light, I'll be ready to go. The last thing we want right now is to have a setback that could keep me out longer, so that's my focus is doing what is expected of me and, when the time comes, hit the ground running."

Hitting the ground running is something Cook has done since his arrival at training camp and he has impressed his teammates with both his work ethic and his playmaking ability.

"You love seeing young guys come in here and push everybody to elevate their game," veteran CB Antoine Winfield said. "He has rare size for a cornerback and has showed everybody that he has the speed and ability to make plays. That's what every team looks at, regardless of position, and Chris has done a great job of showing he belongs and can be an excellent player in this league."

The knock on Cook was that he didn't have elite speed that so many of the elite cornerbacks have, but it's hard to prove that to anybody in the Vikings locker room. Although Cook admits he still has a long way to go to get up to the level that he can be a consistent difference-maker in the secondary, he said he feels like he has made a lot of progress and the best is yet to come.

"This is a game I've been playing since I was 6," Cook said. "The speed is a little different at this level. It takes some time to get used to, but I think I'm getting used to it pretty well."

The timing of Cook's injury couldn't have been worse for his own professional growth. He started training camp behind veteran Lito Sheppard on the depth chart, but said he had made a lot of progress and that the setback he suffered with the knee injury during the third preseason game was something that he hadn't anticipated and wasn't fully prepared for.

"It's frustrating, especially (because) I felt I was hitting my stride right around the time the injury happened," Cook said. "Me being a first-year player and wanting to play, it has been frustrating."

Cook was limited on Wednesday in practice.

"He moved around some, slowly in the beginning. I'll be interested to watch him in some of our team periods. He was primarily on our look squad today," head coach Childress said.

Adding to Cook's frustration was the growing belief that he would have locked down the starting job. He wouldn't go as far as to say he thought he had the starting spot locked down, but said he was giving the coaches reasons to consider him for the position.

"I won't say that (I had won the starting job), because I don't make those decisions," Cook said. "I felt like I was doing everything with my abilities to give myself the best chance to earn the starting job."

Cook's timetable to return remains a closely guarded secret, as are most injury-related situations with the Vikings. They keep information close to the vest and on a need-to-know basis. More times than not, it is the company line that the media doesn't need to know.

Cook said he's hoping to get clearance this week to get on the field when the Vikings play their home opener Sunday because he wants to get out on the field with the bright lights of the regular season and get his NFL career officially started. Not playing against the Saints has bothered him before, during and since that game. He said he hopes his time on the sidelines will end Sunday and he can show the rest of the league what the Vikings already know – he can make a difference in the Vikings secondary and help upgrade the position. For now, all he can do is wait for the word that he is good to go.

"It hurt me a lot last week not to be out there," Cook said. "I'm just ready to get out there as soon as possible and help my team win. There isn't a timeline. I'm just doing everything the training staff tells me to do and when they give me the green light, I'll be ready to go."

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