Two Rookies Getting Increased Time

Two rookies, one a second-round pick and another an undrafted free agent, are seeing increased time and giving a decent accounting under trying circumstances.

Two Vikings rookies saw their most extensive action of the season Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers and seemed to perform up to snuff.

Ryan Cook, a surprise second-round draft pick in April, made his second consecutive start and didn't get into the rotation system with Mike Rosenthal that had been the method of operation in recent games.

"It was a learning experience, but as an offense we didn't do a whole lot to help ourselves out anyway, throwing the ball as many times as we did trying to make something happen," Cook said. "You're not always going to win some of those battles."

Likewise, Cook didn't always win his battles against one of the NFC's sack leaders, defensive end Aaron Kampman. Kampman, who now has 15.5 sacks this season, garnered three sacks of rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, but it appeared Cook didn't receive enough help from the running back on one of those sacks. Head coach Brad Childress also indicated that Jackson wasn't always where he should have been either.

Cook preferred to give Kampman credit.

"You've got to give it to him. He's a good player, one of the sack leaders in the NFL. He's just a workhorse," Cook said. "I can't really say one way or another whether I got outworked. There were just some little things that were learning experiences for me, and hopefully next time around it doesn't happen the same way."

Cook is in his first year playing tackle after spending his collegiate career at New Mexico as a center. When the Vikings drafted him, they insisted he was a center despite questions inquiring about using him at tackle. He worked at center up until training camp, when he began taking more practice snaps at tackle.

Since then, he has been working almost exclusively at right tackle.

"That was my second game starting and playing a full game. This was a little different than practice, but it's no excuse. You've still got to get out and work at it," he said. "I think (I'm comfortable with the transition). It's just one of those things that takes time – hopefully sooner than later, but I've just got to keep working at it."

While players aren't typically informed of personnel decisions more than a couple days in advance, he hopes his performances in the last month of the season have represented well enough to go into next year as the starting right tackle.

"I hope so. I don't really know what's going to happen next season. I can only go in and focus on the Rams now and go into that game with the same focus I go into every game," he said.

Cornerback Charles Gordon, an undrafted rookie out of the University of Kansas, easily saw the most playing of his young professional career.

With second-round draft pick and starter Cedric Griffin inactive with a neck stinger, Fred Smoot made the start along with Antoine Winfield. But Gordon and Ronyell Whitaker split time at nickel back, when the Vikings went with five defensive backs on the field.

Gordon said the rotation at nickel back was based on the freshness of the players "because we were both out there covering punts and doing things on special teams. It was just based on who was fresh most of the time."

Whitaker got about five more plays than Gordon, the rookie figured, but they are likely to continue their extended action next Sunday against St. Louis. Childress wasn't optimistic that Griffin would be able to return for the season finale.

Another strong performance from Gordon could endear him into a continued role next season, but he wanted to stay focused on the final game of 2006 when talking about it Friday.

"We've got one more game and I'm going to go out and play the same way I've been playing. Whatever happens next year happens," he said, adding that the coaching staff just tells him to "keep working my tail off, just keep working at my craft."

NOTES

  • Gordon's first extended action came against Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who might have been playing his last game at Lambeau Field. "We knew that there was going to be a lot of emotions around this game. … We did an alright job, I guess, but not good enough to win," Gordon said. "Anytime you can keep an offense out of the end zone, you'd hope that would be good enough to win."

  • Cook said he didn't know if the Vikings would be able to snap out of their penalized ways in the season finale (they lead the league with 118 penalties). "To be honest with you, I don't know. Everybody just has to go out there and be accountable for what they do," Cook said. "That's the only way you can really handle it, focus on yourself to not get any penalties."

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