Cook looking for first pick, second contract

Chris Cook knows that staying healthy and being reliable are important for him this year. Those two things could lead to his first NFL interception and a second NFL contract.

While blue-chip first-round draft picks get eye-popping contracts, those selected in the second round on down make a good living for men in the early 20s, but it's far from an assurance they can retire comfortably after their playing days are done. It is the second contract that typically tells the tale of whether a player has financial security.

As Vikings cornerback Chris Cook enters the final season of his rookie contract, he is mindful that his NFL future hangs in the balance – whether that future is with the Vikings or another team. Through his first three seasons, Cook has missed more games (26) than he has played (22) and he knows that millions of dollars could be at stake if he can stay healthy and put together a full season that will give teams a better perspective as to his potential as a player.

On Wednesday, Cook spoke of raising the bar on his 2013 season and taking his game to a higher level. What will it take to accomplish that?

"It definitely involves interceptions," Cook said. "I don't really harp on it, but I'm expecting plays to come my way, and when they come my I'll make plays."

There's a significant problem with that goal. Cook's next interception will be his first NFL interception.

In the NFL, there are certain stats that translate into big-money contracts. For defensive ends, it is sacks. For running backs and wide receivers, it is 1,000-yard seasons. For quarterbacks, it's passer ratings and touchdowns. For cornerbacks, it's interceptions … and Cook has yet to register one.

Just as sacks aren't the true measure of a defensive end, interceptions aren't the be-all and end-all for corners. When offensive coordinators fear a cornerback like Darrelle Revis, they just don't throw his way. Deion Sanders was a dominant player because many teams refused to throw his way because they feared a Can-Can dance to the end zone if they did. While Cook doesn't strike terror into opposing offensive coordinators, he has done a solid job when lined up opposite Calvin Johnson – the biggest threat at wide receiver in the league.

Asked if he has been frustrated that he hasn't posted an interception in his NFL career, Cook acknowledged that but added that he has brought other skill sets to the table at his position.

"It's kind of surprising, seeing that this is my fourth year now," Cook said. "I don't really worry about it. I make plays other ways, whether it be tackles or breaking (passes) up – just playing faster than the other guy across the ball from me."

Cook has set a goal of making his 2013 season one that will launch the remainder of his career and he relishes the opportunity to get that first pick – which he hopes to follow up with several more before the season ends. When that day comes, he's not giving the ball back. When he gets his hands on that first interception, nobody will be able to pry it out of his hands. He's taking it to the sideline and eventually taking it home.

"You have to keep it; that's a tradition," Cook said with a smile. "The first interception, you have to keep the ball."

THURSDAY NOTES

  • During his press conference Wednesday, Leslie Frazier praised the ability of Antoine Winfield, but added that no steps have been taken to change his mind since he announced his retirement after being released by Seattle. However, if the Vikings do have a behind-the-scenes interest, it might be in their best interest to wait until after Week 1. As a vested veteran, if Winfield was on the roster for Week 1, the Vikings would be on the hook for his entire 2013 salary whether he played a game or not. After Week 1, any veteran who is signed by a team is effectively on a week-to-week contract, which would make financial sense for the organization.

  • In his new role as a studio analyst for FOX Sports, Brian Urlacher said the Bears had a designated player to fake an injury if an opposing offense was driving against them and getting the better of them. Urlacher said that a coach from the sidelines would do a charade of someone diving into a pool, which was the signal for a player to hit the deck, stop the clock and try to slow down the momentum of an opposing offense. He said the ploy was used more early in the season when warm September weather wore out defenders faster.

  • Adrian Peterson was in a lighthearted mood Wednesday in the Vikings locker room. Not only did he take a Viking Update recorder and stick it in the face of Jerome Simpson, acting as a media member while Simpson was being interviewed, he and Christian Ponder got into a blood-sport battle of Nerf basketball. The Vikings have had a Nerf hoop up for the last couple of years, but thanks to the tireless ingenuity of an as-of-yet unknown artisan, a free throw and three-point line have been added to the game. With side bets on the line, Peterson was frightening good – to the point that, after Ponder would shoot, instead of tossing the Nerf ball to Peterson, he rolled it to him to make him move off his spot where he was consistently draining long-distance shots.

  • The Vikings had 11 players listed on their Wednesday injury report, as noted earlier. The Lions have just two. Rookie DE Ezekial Ansah didn't participate in practice Wednesday while recovering from a concussion, while safety Louis Delmas was limited with a knee injury.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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