It was one of the standout moments in last Sunday's loss to Green Bay. It wasn't a big play on offense or a highlight-film tackle on defense. It was a sideline shot of defensive end Ray Edwards and rookie cornerback Chris Cook jawing back and forth on the sidelines.
Cook was lit up twice for long receptions by Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings and Edwards was letting him hear about it. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers made a point to attack Cook and fellow young cornerback Asher Allen in dissecting the Vikings defense in a 31-3 blowout that would be the worst home defeat (and last) in the coaching career of Brad Childress.
Cook said that he expected to get a lot of attention and said that it wasn't so much what Rodgers did to attack them, but little physical and mental mistakes made by Cook and Allen.
"It was nothing that they did, it was little things that we did," Cook said. "It's just improving your positioning, playing different leverages and giving them different looks to try to confuse them a little bit."
It didn't come as a surprise to many that Rodgers would avoid throwing in the direction of Pro Bowl CB Antoine Winfield and picked on the youngsters. Winfield had a quiet day on his side of the field – only having a handful of passes come his way – but said that is what opposing players and coaches do when they perceive they have a mismatch against inexperienced players.
"There's not much you can do," Winfield said. "Quarterbacks and offensive coordinators are very smart. They're going to go after the young guys. It's going to give the young guys a test to make a name for themselves. Either you're going to crumble under the pressure or you're going stand up and hold your own."
Cook said he knew passes would be coming. Like Cedric Griffin before him, he knows that until he establishes himself as a playmaker, the passes are going to keep coming.
"I know that, as a rookie corner in the NFL, everybody is going to test you," Cook said. "In my opinion, it's the hardest position on the defense. You're out on an island by yourself every time. I look forward to the test."
Winfield said he tried to be supportive of Cook, both on the sidelines during the game and in the locker room since. He said that until Cook earns a reputation around the league, opposing quarterbacks and coordinators are going to keep a big bulls-eye him and will continue to pepper passes his way.
"You have to play with confidence," Winfield said. "Until you start making plays, it's going to continue to come your direction. For those guys, it's a learning experience, especially at corner. It's a tough job, but I think we have the guys to get it done."
Cook has made the first step in that regard. He said while he was upset with himself at the times for the big plays that were made against him, he won't dwell on them. If he starts thinking too much, bad things tend to snowball, so he needs to have selective amnesia.
"As a corner, you've got to have a short memory," Cook said. "Guys are going to make plays. They pay those guys to make plays. You can't stop every play as a corner and you can't lose your confidence, because you'll go in the tank. You can't be scared to give up plays. You've got to want to make plays."
As for his on-camera dust-up with Edwards? Cook dismissed it, saying that both he and Edwards are fiery competitors and that the exchange was merely mutual frustration. He said there is no ill-will and that his burning on Sunday will serve as motivation for this week against the Redskins.
"That was just a heat-of-the-game type of thing," Cook said. "That wasn't a big thing. I think people made more of it than it was. It was just something that happens in the moment. We were all upset, but, like I said, you have to have a short memory, let things like that roll off your back and come back and play harder the next game."
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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