Rookie Right at Tackle For Now

Second-round pick Ryan Cook has been working exclusively at tackle since early in the season, trying to get used to the different techniques after spending most of the off-season working at his college position of center. See what Cook had to say about the transition and the challenges it has presented.

While Daunte Culpepper returns to the sidelines to resume rehabilitation that might have been curtailed too quickly, the other half of the Culpepper trade – offensive lineman Ryan Cook in Minnesota – is working almost exclusively at tackle these days.

"I still prepare the same at both positions – that's something that they asked me to do," Cook said. "I'm still prepared to do both, but my reps in practice are mainly at tackle and a little bit at center."

Cook was a surprising second-round draft pick of the Vikings in April, one of three second-round picks and the one the Vikings acquired from the Miami Dolphins in their trade in March.

It was a trade that was preceded by an exchange of public e-mails and in-person comments between Culpepper and new Vikings head coach Brad Childress. The two were at odds over Culpepper's pay and his rehabilitation regimen after the former Pro Bowl quarterback suffered three torn ligaments on Oct. 30, 2005.

Vikings fans largely felt like they received the short end of that trade, but with Culpepper never fully recovered from his injury and sustaining 21 sacks in his first four games with Miami before being benched, the value of the trade will continue to be up for debate.

Meanwhile, Cook, who was originally drafted as a center, has been asked to concentrate mainly on learning the tackle position.

"I was kind of green at that position. Coming out of college, I spent four years at center and that was something they felt I was more comfortable at," he said. "So they wanted to get me more accustomed to being out there on the edge – hence the more reps out there."

Cook has been inactive for each of the team's five games so far this season. He doesn't know what his long-term position will be on the offensive line, and it doesn't seem to matter to him.

"To me, personally, it doesn't matter. I take tackle as a challenge, never playing it before. I'm just going out there and taking it as a personal challenge to see if I can do that and get better at it," he said.

Vikings center Matt Birk has returned to the playing field after missing much of the 2004 and all of the 2005 season with sports hernia and hip surgeries. So far, Birk hasn't shown or mentioned any lingering effects from those multiple surgeries. Jason Whittle has been Birk's backup at center, along with filling in for guards Steve Hutchinson and Artis Hicks in a game-day pinch.

Despite earlier speculation after his drafting that Cook was too tall to play center, he doesn't think his 6-foot-6 frame has anything to do with orders to concentrate on tackle. For now, he's just focusing on acclimating himself further at tackle, which he says has been a bit easier because he had to know the responsibilities of all the offensive linemen while working as a center during the off-season.

"At first, it's kind of overwhelming because you have so much to learn. It does help being out on the edge and being able to put yourself in the center's position and help make calls for him. It definitely is an advantage," he said.

But the technique is far different.

"It's a lot different because you're in space more. That's just something you have to adjust to and use your technique better," he said. "The footwork is a little different. That's something you have to pick up on and be a natural athlete. Most people could do it, but you just need to pick up on it."

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