Vikings CB Chris Cook, out since Week 8 with a broken arm, seems ready to return just in time.
By BRIAN HALLFS North
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings cornerback
Chris Cook had his eyes on Sunday's game at Houston as soon as the schedule was released, relishing the opportunity to match up with tall, physical
Texans receiver Andre Johnson.
But after he broke his arm earlier in the season, Cook likely circled the date heavily and adorned his calendar with stars. He fractured the radius bone in his right arm -- one of the two large bones in the forearm -- while trying to make a diving tackle on Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin in Week 8. He was placed on injured reserve, but Minnesota designated him to return and hoped he could come back for this very game.
His arm healed, Cook returns in the first game in which he's eligible to help the Vikings' playoff push and possibly draw the assignment of matching up with Johnson.
"I was looking forward to playing him since the beginning of the year," Cook said this week. "I marked the two Johnsons (Andre and Detroit's Calvin) off on my calendar when I first got the schedule. Playing against him is a big opportunity for me."
Cook was cleared to return to practice two weeks ago and has been trying to increase his activity and improve his conditioning in time for Sunday's game. Minnesota (8-6) will need to make a roster move before Sunday to activate Cook.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier hasn't been willing to commit to Cook's role against the Texans, especially whether the 6-foot-2 Cook will line up against the 6-foot-3 Johnson. Such assignments are the reason the Vikings drafted Cook with their first pick in the 2010 draft, but Frazier wants to make sure Cook's conditioning level will allow him to play a big part in his first game.
"I'm hoping that as the week goes on he's feeling more comfortable and confident about where he is physically and feeling up to the challenge of getting out there and playing in a game," Frazier said earlier this week. "We'll have to wait and see how he does over the course of the week."
Cook started the first eight games this season, tallying 31 tackles, a sack and 12 passes defensed. A.J. Jefferson has filled Cook's role since the injury, trying to become the taller corner to cover teams' bigger receivers. Jefferson has fared well, but Cook's return would be a boost, especially against Johnson, who's sixth in the league with 93 catches and third with 1,398 yards. Cook's return would finally give Minnesota its preferred set of corners against Houston's sixth-ranked offense with Cook joining Jefferson, Antoine Winfield and Josh Robison, who has been the nickel cornerback with Cook out.
"We expect him to play and how much he'll play I'm not quite sure," Minnesota defensive coordinator Alan Williams said, adding it might not be a strict matchup with Johnson. "I'm not sure if he's ready for 60 or 70 reps yet, but I know he's ready for at least 20 or 30. We'll see at the end of the week. We'll talk to coach Frazier and see where Cook is. He'll be playing, I'm just not quite sure how much."
Cook vowed to return following the injury, blessed with the NFL's new rule allowing teams to designate one player to come off IR. Cook's first two seasons were cut short, first by injuries and then a legal issue, and he wasn't prepared to have another season ended prematurely and was frustrated. But he focused on his rehab and has returned on the early side of the original six- to eight-week timeframe.
"It was somewhat of that feeling at the beginning, but I mean, I've been through a lot of adverse situations, so this one was a little bit easier to deal with than my other two," Cook said.
He has been practicing with a hard plastic shield over his forearm and said he will wear it during the game. Cook has been working on conditioning but said a game situation will be a test for him even though he's not limited at all by his arm.
"My mindset is I just want to play," Cook said. "It doesn't matter if I start, come in on third downs or all special teams. I just want to go play … I can press. I can tackle. We're not tackling in practice, so, I'm full-go."