In life, it's one of the qualities associated with Americans. It's not always that you made a mistake. It's what you do after that makes the bigger difference. Vikings cornerback Chris Cook finds himself in that position now more than ever.
There are two Chris Cooks in the minds of Vikings fans – Chris Cook the player and the Chris Cook the perception. Last October, as the Vikings prepared to take on the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome, Cook was in a jail cell, charged with felony domestic assault and was facing potentially significant jail time.
In March, Cook was acquitted of the charges against him and welcomed back to the Vikings organization after five months of professional limbo. After being scrutinized as a human being, not a football player, Cook said he had some low moments – wondering if he could ever get his reputation and his professional career back.
"The thought crossed my mind that everything might be over for me," Cook said. "I always kept my confidence and my head up. I had a lot of faith in my lawyers and a lot of faith in the truth being told. But there were a lot of times I was wondering if I would ever get back on a football field."
Cook said one of the byproducts of his legal issue was that people made judgments about his character that were very pointed and very public. The mythical "court of public opinion" was heard loud and clear, especially by Cook himself. He said he has learned a lot from the entire experience and said is grateful for a support system that helped him through the dark times.
"It's hard, but I have great friends and great family," Cook said. "They were always supportive of me and they always stayed behind me. Along with the negative that I was hearing, I always had more positive coming at me. It kept me level-headed and helped keep me focused."
Cook said the last several months have been an eye-opener in several respects – both positive and negative. He got his NFL lease on life back and said that, despite a significant career derailment, he is coming back in 2012 to win the trust of his teammates and Vikings fans back.
"It was rough going through what I was going through," said Cook, who has cut his hair and changed jersey numbers, from 31 to 20. "I'm just happy to be back around my teammates. I want to show the Vikings family and all of Minnesota what I can do and how I can contribute to this team and this community."
Since Cook was suspended with pay following his arrest, a lot has changed in the Vikings secondary, especially at cornerback. Veteran Cedric Griffin was released and the team announced earlier this week that Asher Allen had retired. While Griffin's exodus from Minnesota wasn't a big shock, Cook said he was stunned to learn that Allen was walking away from the game.
"Asher definitely surprised me," Cook said. "This is his contract year – his last year on his (rookie) contract. I was just surprised by it. I guess there was something personal in his life that he felt like he needed to step away from football and take care of."
Cook's second chance with the Vikings is something he is embracing. There is a need for him in the lineup and a need for him to repair an image that has been dragged through the mud for the better part of the last year – some would argue rightfully so.
With a starting spot open for the taking and a career rehabilitation in place, Cook said a new day is dawning on his career. His injury-plagued rookie season is history. His legal dramas of 2011-12 are over. He sees his second chance as an opportunity to hit the reset button and start over.
"This is a fresh start me – got a new number, new hair," Cook said. "I'm just out there trying to prove myself – not only to the fans, my teammates and coaches, but to myself. I haven't played a full season – I think I may have only played 11 games if I remember correctly – and it's been two years. I want to prove I can make it through a full season and be the player I know I can be for this team."
Second chances don't always come, but, when done properly, they're stories of redemption. Cook believes his life is changing for the better and is ready to prove it – on and off the field.
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.
Cook embracing the chance to prove himself
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