Interceptions and passes defensed were part of Chris Cook's practice Tuesday. So was getting burned once.
Such is life as an NFL cornerback, as Cook admitted after that practice, but he also knows he will be counted on more than ever this year.
Injuries, legal issues and suspensions have all been part of Cook's NFL résumé to this point. Last year, he spent six games on injured reserve with a broken arm that required surgery but was called back for the final two games of the season because of a new rule allowing that to happen in 2012.
In 2011, Cook was suspended because of legal issues stemming from a domestic assault charge, and in his rookie season he dealt with minor surgeries to both of his knees. In three seasons, he has played in only 22 regular-season games.
Staying healthy has turned into a priority.
"That's been a priority since my rookie year, when I hurt my knee. But I feel like this year will definitely be a good year for me. I'm just looking forward to it," Cook said.
Head coach Leslie Frazier, whose career as a cornerback in the 1980s ended because of his own knee injury, understands that not all injuries can be avoided.
"But we need him to stay on the field. Sometimes the health issues you can't avoid," Frazier said. "Sometimes things just happen."
Cook has always held promise as a physical cornerback who can match up with the tallest receiver on the opposing offense. He showed his coverage skills on a few plays Tuesday during practice. One of those was a simple knockdown of a Christian Ponder pass.
Another was an interception when Ponder tried to hit Jerome Simpson deep down the left sideline. Cook, who was stride for stride with Simpson in tight coverage, jumped and hauled in the interception as Simpson fell to the ground with nothing to show for his effort.
"I felt good today. The past two days I've been feeling good. I've just been focusing on technique. It's definitely paying off," Cook said.
"I know that I don't have any (career interceptions), but I really don't think about it. As long as I'm out there and I'm not giving up plays, it's a positive thing."
For the most part, Cook appears to be where he should and covering his assigned receiver.
"I don't feel like I'm that far off. It's a game of inches. A breakup can turn into a pick with two or three inches," he said. "Like I said, I feel good about my game so far, where it is. I'm just focusing on little things and keeping the ball rolling."
The one major mistake Tuesday came when Cook bit on a double move by the quick-footed Simpson a short time after the interception. That resulted in a touchdown of about 60 yards.
Entering his fourth NFL season, Cook is making progress, but he hasn't proved reliable enough yet and he knows it. Last year, he played in only 54 percent of the team's defensive snaps because of the broken arm, and he has averaged playing in just over seven games in each of his first three seasons.
If he can stay on the field more consistently, he will put the biggest criticism on him to this point in the past.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Cook experiences highs, lows in practice
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