With the talk surrounding the Vikings revolving around the potential acquisition of Randy Moss, other Vikings have been flying under the radar. Three key players – Cedric Griffin, Visanthe Shiancoe and Chris Cook – are all in the process of trying to get to 100 percent. The bye week, while inconvenient for the team, was a Godsend for the injured.
The Vikings' win over Detroit Sept. 26 marked the return of both Griffin and Cook and the loss of Shiancoe early in the game. Of the three, Griffin was the player most eyes were on. Having been sidelined since last January's NFC Championship Game with a torn ACL, Griffin made his 2010 debut against the Lions and said he feels he is all the way back and ready to look ahead, not back at the last nine months of rehab.
"I'm doing fine," Griffin said. "I'm past (the injury talk). It's all about the team for me right now. I'm glad to be back and working out with my teammates. Now it's about how many plays am I out there and what kind of contributions can I make."
Griffin said the reason he feels he is ready to assume a much larger role was that the Vikings medical staff took a cautious approach to his injury. While he and linebacker E.J. Henderson spent the offseason pushing each other, when training camp started, Henderson, who had his leg snapped almost two months earlier, got the green light to return to action. Griffin didn't. He said it was a little frustrating at first to be held back, but he understood the rationale and was pushed to work harder to get the green light himself.
"I thought they handled it really well," Griffin said. "There was a part of me that wanted to get out there as quickly as I can. I wanted to come back like E.J. did, but was told the trainers and the medical (staff) that I needed to take it one step at a time and not push too hard. The last thing anybody wanted was a setback. They took the time and told me that, when I returned to the field, I would be good to go full speed. I'm catching up with the hitting and feeling good right now."
Shiancoe was a standout for the Vikings in defeats the first two weeks of the season. He was Favre's go-to receiver and seemed to have the market cornered on plays down the field. Unfortunately, for an offense already missing leading receiver Sidney Rice, losing Shiancoe in the first half of the Lions game to a hamstring injury was another body blow to the Vikings offensive attack.
Unlike the cornerbacks, who were coming back prior to the bye week, Shiancoe was heading to the sidelines. For his injury, the bye week couldn't have come at a better time. Asked if he was able to benefit from the time off, he said the week away from game action has helped his healing process significantly.
"There's no doubt," Shiancoe said. "It was a very productive week. A progressive week. It's feeling a lot better today that it did a week ago and hopefully it will be that much better by Monday."
Asked if he enjoyed his bye week, Shiancoe said he spent his off time getting treatment and continuing the grind of the season. He said he wouldn't be ready to kick back until the season ended – a time frame he needed to amend after a little thought.
"There was no break on the bye," Shiancoe said. "I'll take a vacation in January. No, wait. February. That's right. I ain't worried about no vacation right now."
Cook's return has taken a different track. No player was more impressive in training camp than Cook, who made an impression every day in Mankato. His performance was good enough that he was slated to start the regular-season opener before a meniscus injury pushed him to the sidelines. He made his return against Detroit as well and said his NFL debut was one he knew would be followed by a painful Monday.
"I was definitely sore on Monday," Cook said. "Especially my neck, because I hadn't been tackling in a while. That was my biggest concern going in, that I hadn't been tackling in a while and was wondering how I was going to feel after the game."
Cook said the best news was that he underestimated how bad things would be – an anomaly typically reserved for professional athletes and daredevils. You know you're going to be hurting the next day, but when it isn't as bad as you had figured it would be, it's viewed as a positive.
"I was expecting to be sore," Cook said. "I was actually a little surprised Monday. I was sore, that's for sure, but I wasn't as sore as I thought I would be. It was good."
With all three players on the mend and looking forward to the brutal run in front of them, the Vikings are getting as close to full strength and looking forward to getting back to action against the Jets – an opponent that has meaning for players other than Favre.
Cook said his NFL debut was a big moment for him, but his second game will be much more memorable for him and his family. He will be making his debut on Monday Night Football – fulfilling a wish he has had since childhood and reason to be glad he's healthy enough to be on the field. After missing the nationally televised season opener, Cook said he will be pumping adrenaline when game time arrives Monday night – what he and his family hope will serve as his coming out party.
"I can't wait for it," Cook said. "About the only one who's more excited is my mom. She's been talking about it like she's going to play in the game. I can't wait. My first Monday night game. That's the kind of thing you dream of."
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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