Cook plays pivotal role in the pivot

Ryan Cook is used to playing center from his all-conference days in college, but his insertion and quick acclimation to the old position on Sunday went well. See what he and Brad Childress had to say about the sudden immersion after John Sullivan's injury.

By Ryan Cook's estimation, he took three reps at center in practice last Friday. By our count, he took 65 much more meaningful reps two days later.

Cook was forced into action Sunday when starting center John Sullivan suffered a calf injury on the Vikings' first offensive play.

"I try to switch it up within the scout team and play different positions throughout the week and make sure I stay ready for obvious situations like this," Cook said after Sunday's game. "It's a challenge to get the refinement at every position down. Obviously that's what I'm here to do, and when I'm called on to do that I'm going to go out there and do it to the best of my ability."

Cook played center, guard and tackle during the preseason, and once the regular season started he assumed the role of swingman along the line. In the regular-season opener, he was thrust into action at right tackle for the team's final drive against the New Orleans Saints. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie went to the locker room with a dislocated finger and right tackle Phil Loadholt moved over to left tackle.

Without Sullivan during the preseason because of another calf injury, the Vikings used mostly Jon Cooper and Anthony Herrera with the first and second team at center. But, when it came time to play meaningful games, Cook was their choice at center.

"I wasn't surprised. I think that's probably why they kept me around here is to come in because I can be a versatile lineman and play a lot of different positions. I just try to go out there and fulfill that every day," Cook said.

"That's predominantly what I played in the preseason so I got a lot of reps there. I didn't really have a lot of tackle reps, and in New Orleans I had to go play tackle. The center overall position was very comfortable (Sunday)."

In reality, the Vikings' only other choice would have been inserting Herrera at center and having either Cook or rookie Chris DeGeare play right guard. Backup center Jon Cooper was inactive.

"I thought it went pretty well. Obviously, there's some things I still need to improve on," Cook said. "I went in there at the last second for Sully, and filling in for him I think I did overall a good job."

Vikings coach Brad Childress agreed.

"He really did a great job. You didn't see any downturn on anything," Childress said. "… You didn't see any physical shortcomings by him at all in there in terms of playing the offensive line."

Cook's insertion did bring about some challenges. Right tackle Phil Loadholt, who was flagged for two false starts, said the snap took some getting used with Cook, and Childress admitted Cook didn't snap the ball on the right count one time. Cook was also penalized 15 yards for a clip on a fourth-quarter run by Adrian Peterson, but Childress said that was a "good effort play."

Cook was part of Peterson's best rushing day of the season, a 160-yard performance that is a single-game best in the NFC this year.

"We're going to do what we do up front and block those guys and he's going to do what he does best and run the ball and run it hard. He broke a couple long ones," Cook said. "I'm not sure what he finished with, but we just try to do our part up front."

Of course, playing center may be slightly new to Cook at the NFL level, but he started 47 games for New Mexico and was a three-time All-Mountain West selection at center during his college days. Once he got to the NFL, however, the Vikings were intent on making him a right tackle and he started 33 games before being supplanted by 2009 second-round draft choice Phil Loadholt. Cook's assessment of his first few years in the league is a pretty honest characterization.

"Very rollercoaster, up and down," he said. "Hopefully, going on my fifth year, hopefully, I can kind of level that out and be more consistent, which has always been my goal, and I'll keep striving and working towards it."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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