With his contract signing out of the way, Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook can now get to the business of playing football and, while it’s been just one month that he’s been in the NFL, he has already seen the natural progression that is part of life in the NFL.
Almost from Day 1, he has seen that the level of play is markedly higher, even for a guy coming from a power school like Florida State.
“It’s definitely a change of speed, coming from rookie minicamp and then getting put out there with the vets,” Cook said. “It’s definitely a change of speed. These guys have been doing it for a while. I’m having fun, learning every day. Learning how to be a pro, learning how to be a better teammate and a player also. I’m just having fun and embracing everything from the vets.”
He has already witnessed some of the changes that he’s going to have to make as he starts his pro career, and first and foremost among that is learning the terminology of Pat Shurmur.
Cook has a bit of a leg up on other rookies because FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has a pretty complicated system in place, but even that system pales by comparison to the pros. Asked what is the biggest adjustment, Cook didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“The playbook, it definitely expanded,” Cook said. “At Florida State we had a big enough playbook because Coach Fisher does a good job of getting you ready for stages like this and moments like this. Up here, plays get a little longer, quarterbacks doing a lot more adjusting to whatever you’ve got going on with the defense. Just the playbook in general, that’s been the biggest difference.”
At some point every rookie can feel a little in over his head. Cook has been making a strong impression on the coaching staff, but even he had one of those “Welcome to the NFL, rookie” moments when the entire roster of players showed up.
“My rookie moment was coming from [practices] with the rookies and getting thrown in there with the vets and seeing how quick the holes close and just seeing how fast the linebackers are and the secondary,” Cook said. “You see linemen chasing you down field and you’ve got to stay on your horse. That was my rookie moment. Just everybody is fast, everybody is big and fast at this level. That was my change.”
The one thing that Cook doesn’t need to be taught is speed. He has plenty of that – it is his calling card to the NFL. The only problem as he sees it is that the gap between his speed and the speed of defenders has been narrowed considerably.
But his approach to the game isn’t going to change. He’s always been a game-breaker and is going to make the most of every time he touches the ball because, despite going up against elite defenders, he’s still going to do what he does best.
“I feel like if a guy is chasing me, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,” Cook said. “That’s been my mentality when I step on the field every time. Guy chasing me, got to get to the end zone; that’s been my mentality. Once a guy is chasing me, I just block everything out and try to beat him to that spot.”
Cook has the daunting task of replacing a future Hall of Fame running back and will face an uphill climb early, but he has the necessary ingredients to be a star if one simple thing continues that has been hallmark of his football career – being able to get to the open field faster than guys on the field designed to slow him down.