EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Cornerback Chris Cook has faced off against Detroit Lions All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson twice in his three NFL seasons, taking his share lumps of and also demonstrating why he was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with their top pick in the 2010 draft.
Cook is eagerly awaiting the third matchup between the two when Minnesota travels to Detroit for this weekend’s game.
“I can’t wait for Sunday,” Cook said Wednesday.
Games like Sunday’s are just what the Vikings had in mind when they made Cook the 34th overall selection in the 2010 draft, bringing in the 6-foot-2, 212-pound corner to cover the likes of the taller receivers in the league. Facing Johnson, at 6-5, 236, twice a season made it even more important for Minnesota to do something to combat the player who has become the toughest receiver in the league to cover.
Cook’s limited playing time his first two NFL seasons kept the Vikings from implementing their projected secondary against Johnson, who had 10 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a pair of Lions wins against Minnesota last season.
Few cornerbacks can restrain Johnson, who leads the league this season with 396 receiving yards and is third with 24 catches. In the one meeting last season, Cook showed the ability to handle Johnson as well as anyone.
Matched up most often with Johnson, Cook was largely responsible for the dominant receiver catching one pass in the first half for seven yards. However, Johnson was partially responsible for Detroit’s come-from-behind win, hauling in six passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, one touchdown coming on a jump ball near the goal line in which Johnson used his big body to shield Cook away from the ball.
“It was a nice play by Chris and he’s matched up pretty good with Calvin on the occasions when he’s lined up against him,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “Glad we’ll have him for this game and should be a good battle.
Cook’s first exposure to Johnson came in his first NFL game in 2010, when Johnson finished with six catches for 56 yards. Johnson has averaged 4.56 catches and 63.89 yards in his nine career games against the Vikings and has scored six touchdowns.
“When you go up against Calvin, you have to play physical because he’s such a big body,” Cook said. “He likes to use his body — especially if you’re going to go up and press him at the line of scrimmage, you have to play physical. You have to be aggressive and be able to run because he can run. You never know what to expect.”
Frazier said the key against Johnson is knowing where the ball is. Due to Johnson’s height advantage, defensive backs at times almost have to play the ball through his hands, trying to knock it out as he comes down with it.
“You have to be able to put yourself in a position where you can see the ball because if he’s in a position where he can see it and you have trouble finding it, his leaping ability, his athletic ability, he’s going to come down with it more times than not, Frazier said. “You don’t want to get in a position where you can’t find the ball. It can be very tough with a guy like him.”
Last week against San Francisco, Cook most often drew the assignment of guarding Randy Moss, who used to cause similar headaches in his prime. Last week, Moss had three catches for only 27 yards.
“I always look forward to playing against the best guys in the country and the world,” Cook said. “We had Randy Moss last week and Calvin this week. Both are a big challenge and both legendary at the receiver position. I look forward to playing against guys like that, and I love the challenge.
Reisner cut to make room for Simpson: The Vikings three-day roster exemption for activating receiver Jerome Simpson ended Thursday afternoon, and the team decided to release Allen Reisner to make room on the 53-man roster.
Reisner, a second-year undrafted tight end out of Iowa, had to leave during the middle of practice as Minnesota’s 3 p.m. deadline for the roster exemption passed. Reisner was active for the season’s first three games but didn’t catch a pass. He played six games last year with the Vikings and caught one pass for five yards.
Simpson, signed in the offseason to be a deep threat at receiver, was activated this week following his three-game suspension for a federal drug charge of a prohibited act relating to controlled substances.
Ponder added to the injury report: Quarterback Christian Ponder was added to Thursday’s injury report for the first time and was listed as a limited participant with a neck injury.
Frazier didn’t disclose Ponder’s absence in his post-practice interview session but did say tight end Kyle Rudolph was feeling better after missing Wednesday’s practice. Rudolph participated in a limited capacity on Thursday.
Linebacker Erin Henderson still hasn’t passed all of the required tests following a Week 1 concussion and missed Thursday’s practice. Safeties Mistral Raymond and Andrew Sendejo both missed practice with ankle injuries.
Defensive end Jared Allen was again listed as a limited participant, but he said he was feeling better after dealing with neck spasms since Sunday’s game. Defensive end D’Aundre Reed was limited and linebacker Marvin Mitchell was a full participant.