Chris Cook enters one of the most important years for him professionally, and some of his earning power will be tied to what he does personally.
Cook, who is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $630,000 in 2013 base salary and count $2.3 million against salary cap with incentives and signing and roster bonuses, knows that he still has much to prove despite this being his fourth season with the Vikings.
"I feel like there is definitely a point for me to prove – one being that I can stay on the field and two being that I can stay healthy and three being that I won't be in any legal issues or have any legal troubles," Cook said. "I feel like those – especially the legal stuff – I feel like those are all things that I can control, even though injuries sometimes are unpredictable. But I feel like I've been working hard enough and taking care of my body to where I'll be durable enough to stay healthy the whole season."
In three seasons, Cook has only played in 22 games because of injuries and a suspension after he was charged with domestic assault by strangulation and third-degree assault after an October 2011 incident in which he was accused of punching and choking his girlfriend, Chantel Baker. Baker later recanted the story she initially gave to police, leaving it up to the jury to decide if Cook was acting in self-defense after an argument when Baker, a Virginia resident, was in town to visit Cook. Cook was found not guilty on both charges, both of them felonies.
That incident caused him to make changes in his life, he said.
"I don't go out as much. I'm more of home-body now," he said after a practice last month. "I just focus on what I love to do – I focus on football. I go home, I study. We watch practice here and I go home and watch it again. I get my rest and I just remove myself from being on the scene and a lot of the things that I used to do. That's basically all it really takes is not put yourself into situations that are going to get you in trouble."
Cook has millions of reasons to stay out of trouble. So far, the 2010 second-round pick has been a decent, albeit unspectacular cornerback, when he has been available and on the field. While he fits the type of big cornerback the Vikings desire for their defense, in starting 18 games he still doesn't have an interception.
He said he "definitely" realizes how precious an NFL roster spot and job can be, and that should be especially apparent in a contract year.
"Honestly, I'm just happy to be playing football. Of course, you know my circumstances of things that I've been through," Cook said. "I'm just blessed to be in the position that I am and blessed to still be playing football. I'm just happy to still be here. Contract year or not, I still get to do what I love to do for another year, regardless of what happens after this contract year."
Despite everything that Cook has been through, the Vikings would like to see him emerge as a leader after the team released Antoine Winfield, who signed with Seattle. The move left Cook as the incumbent starter at right cornerback with rookie Xavier Rhodes and 2012 third-round draft pick Josh Robison expected to compete for Winfield's old spot on the left side.
"Coach Frazier talked to me about my leadership role growing after Antoine left, and me being among the oldest guys in the group," Cook said. "I'm just accepting it. I was a captain in college and at every other stage. This is just the next step."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
CB Cook now ‘more of a home-body'
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