Cook Showing All-Important Versatility

Ryan Cook was drafted in the second round as a center, and that's where he is getting most of his practice time, but he's been seeing reps at tackle of late. See what Cook had to say about the transition and getting accustomed to the Vikings' system.

When the Vikings drafted Ryan Cook with their second pick of the second round, not only were outside analysts dubbing the selection a reach, but there were numerous questions about where Cook would play along the offensive line.

The Vikings brass said Cook was a center first, and that's where he would practice. When he showed up to Winter Park the following day and reporters greeted all 6-foot-6 of the University of New Mexico alumnus, those concerns about him playing center grew taller than he has sprouted.

The Vikings media lists Cook as a center/guard, but Cook has been practicing mostly at center so far. The last week, though, Cook has been getting more repetitions at right tackle as well.

So does all this confusion about his main position frustrate the affable Cook?

"Not at all," he said. "I'm just trying to get the exposure out there and see if that versatility that everyone talks about is true or not. The more you know, the harder it is to get rid of you."

Coaches told Cook on the day that veterans reported to training camp that he would be getting practice repetitions at right tackle. Two days later, on the first day of full-squad workouts, the coaches' words came true. Cook took about a dozen snaps at right tackle, even getting some work with the first-team unit, most likely so the coaches could get him on film working next to first-team offensive linemates.

Cook hadn't practiced the tackle position in minicamps and only sniffed the position at the University of New Mexico. In his senior year, the coaching staff wanted to move Cook to right tackle, but without anyone to fill the center spot he remained the signal-caller of the line in order to keep New Mexico's offensive production up.

Although he never played it or practiced it full-time, he said he would occasionally pop out to tackle for one-on-one pass-rushing drills "knowing that the exposure would eventually come."

The Senior Bowl was Cook's first exposure to right tackle on a full-time practice basis and playing it in a game situation.

"It's a whole different set of movements than being at center, where you have two guards to help on both sides. As a tackle, you're just kind of out there on an island all by yourself," he said.

"As far as the assignment stuff, it's a little bit easier than center, but the technique is a whole different world and that's something that I have to constantly work on. I'm just trying to watch the old guys and pick up some stuff from them, as far as their technique and how they approach it."

Cook's yeoman attitude from five years ago will certainly help him. No Division I schools recruited him, but he was convinced he would play at that level. He ended up starting as a redshirt freshman, playing in 49 games and starting 44 of them from that point forward and winning All-Mountain West honors in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

It's also that sharp focus on his goals that has him convinced he'll succeed quickly at the NFL level. He was asked how long he thought it would take him to really get comfortable with making calls at the center position during games.

"I think by the time training camp is over, I should have it down pat," he answered matter-of-factly. "It's a big offense, but I got at it every night. The key is to fix the mistake you made before and eventually I'll have no mistakes. I'm just trying to approach it with that attitude every day and not make the same mistake twice."

In order to speed that process, he wasn't willing to simply relax in the time between his last organized team activity in June and the start of training camp in late July. He studied his playbook daily and viewed DVDs of minicamp to keep himself on pace with the center position and study where the running backs were going with the different plays.

However, his latest move to the exterior of the offensive line – if only on a part-time basis – is a whole new game for him. But if it helps make him more valuable in the coaches' eyes, Cook is all for it.

"I have enough of a working knowledge of center to do what I need to do there. In the end, it's only going to help me if I know more than one position," Cook said, indicating he's open to more challenges. "Guard can naturally fall into that too; since it's between tackle and center it kind of fits naturally between those two positions. In the overall scheme of things, it's probably good for me just learning different positions and seeing things from different angles. As a center, I think overall that will help a great deal."

But, see, even Ryan Cook still lists himself as a center.

Viking Update Top Stories