His talent is a bit unharnessed yet. Many Vikings fans remember him struggling in his rookie season and aren't sure of the full effects of two minor surgeries to repair the meniscus in each knee. One of those was in the preseason of 2010 and he believes he tried to come back too soon, causing damage in his other knee. After that first surgery, he wanted to prove himself, but instead his injury-limited explosiveness was exposed at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.
His confidence was shaken and it was time to re-evaluate. Eventually, he was shut down for the season. Still, there were hints of how good he could be when he took advantage of his rookie training camp and preseason and showed flashes of legitimate starting talent.
That seems so long ago. Back then, it was almost all about football, overcoming surgery and trying convince people that his talent belonged in the NFL.
Last year, it was clear he belonged from a talent perspective – not only on the roster, but in the starting lineup. Cedric Griffin was still feeling the effects of major knee surgery to repair each of his torn anterior cruciate ligaments and Cook stepped up. He started in the nickel cornerback role in Week 3 and took over for an injured Antoine Winfield at left cornerback in Weeks 5 and 6 before Cook ended up in jail the weekend of the Packers game on Oct. 23.
His arrest for felony domestic assault was costly for him, but even more costly for the team. He was suspended for two weeks without pay and told not to return to the facility until his legal issues were resolved. As it turned out, they weren't resolved until last week, when he was found not guilty on all counts stemming from that incident with this then-girlfriend, Chantel Baker.
Cook pointed out after his acquittal that he missed 10 games and it will be a long road back. His suspension ended up costing him $52,941.18 in game checks. It cost the Vikings more dearly, in several ways.
Their defensive backfield was decimated with his absence, Winfield's injuries and Griffin's knees. The Vikings entered the 2011 season feeling good about having Winfield, Cook and Griffin all available to them. By the ninth game, Winfield and Cook were out for the season and Griffin tried – unsuccessfully and while shielding himself from interview requests – to finish out the season.
Then there was the financial side of the Cook situation for the team. After losing two game checks, the Vikings continued to pay him the rest of the season. That cost them $211,764 over the final eight games in both real money and salary-cap hit.
The bigger price might have been in the differences of opinion in the Vikings locker room. Cook said after his acquittal Thursday that he will focus on earning back his team's trust. He might need some time to do that.
Head coach Leslie Frazier continued sporadic communication with Cook throughout his legal issues, and general manager Rick Spielman left open the possibility for his return throughout the ordeal by keeping him on the roster. The Vikings' statement following the verdict Thursday said they will meet with Cook "in the near future and believe he deserves the opportunity to rejoin our organization."
While Cook was getting support from the front office, the bigger issue will be repairing feelings in the locker room. According to a source, there were players that didn't feel it was right that Cook continued to get his salary while not contributing to the efforts on the field.
His comeback will include much more than re-familiarizing him with proper technique against quality NFL receivers. A lot of relationships were hurt in Cook's October dustup. His acquittal in court is only the beginning of his comeback.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.