MANKATO, Minn. — New Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams has tried to not come in with any hard opinions on his new players, instead using training camp and the upcoming preseason games to evaluate his defense.
Minnesota opens the preseason Friday on the road against the San Francisco 49ers, but cornerback Chris Cook is already making an impression on his new coordinator. Cook, who is perhaps the key piece to improving a Vikings pass defense that gave up a league-high 34 touchdowns while finishing tied for a league-low eight interceptions, has made several big plays in training camp and is catching Williams’ attention.
“I’m not sure if you saw two or three days ago, he really showed what he was,” Williams said. “There was one play where he broke downhill and made a nice interception. Then in one-on-ones, they tried to throw a deep ball on him and he intercepted that one, too. If you were here yesterday, you saw in goal line that he stuck it up in there and made a tackle and stopped the guy short of the goal line.
“I’m seeing a complete football player, which is what you want to have. You don’t want just a cover corner. You don’t just want a guy that’s run support. You want a complete player, and so far that’s what we are seeing from him. Hopefully that’s what we’ll continue to see.”
Cook has been impressive before, but staying on the field has been his biggest issue. He was limited to six games in his 2010 rookie season due to injuries and then missed the final 10 games last year because of legal problems. But coach Leslie Frazier says Cook has entered training camp re-focused and ready to contribute.
“Very focused and very determined,” Frazier said. “From the time he sat in my office a few months ago, and it really hasn’t changed. He’s committed to having a real good year, committed to a good offseason and training camp, and so far he’s done very well.”
Cook has made a few interceptions in training camp but is waiting for his first career interception in a regular-season game. He does have a reputation as a strong cover corner. In team drills on Tuesday, Cook turned around at the perfect time and batted away a deep pass intended for receiver Jerome Simpson.
“I know one thing, he seems to be more physical than he has been in the past, which is good,” Frazier said. “We always felt like he had the ability to cover, but now he’s putting his nose in there and trying to be more physical as a tackler, which is good for our team. He’s a big corner who can run with most guys out there. So, just keep improving, keep seeing him come. Hopefully he’ll do well on Friday night and just continue to progress in the preseason.”
Injury update: Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, who was expected to challenge for the starting right guard spot, had sports hernia surgery on Tuesday and doctors told Frazier the recovery time will be four to six weeks.
Frazier mentioned the original timeline could have been as much as 10 weeks for Schwartz, depending on the severity of the surgery, but Frazier said the hernia wasn’t as severe as doctors thought it might be. Frazier said Schwartz likely wouldn’t be put on the physically unable to perform list, which would keep him out for the first six weeks, and the team is hopeful he could return by the start of the regular season on Sept. 9.
“We hope to have him back in a short amount of time,” Frazier said.
Receiver Greg Childs had surgery Monday to repair the torn patellar tendons in both of his knees. Frazier called the surgery a success and said no additional damage was found, noting Childs “has a long road ahead of him.” Childs was placed on injury waivers, and Frazier wasn’t sure if he had cleared. If he clears, as expected, the Vikings will transfer Childs to the injured reserve list.
During Tuesday’s afternoon practice, linebacker Everson Griffen missed a few plays while dealing with a stinger. Receiver Percy Harvin left early with a cramp, but Frazier said he’d be fine. Christian Ballard (hamstring) didn’t practice. Josh Robinson (hamstring) was also held back during practice. Running back Jordan Todman is still dealing with a sprained ankle as well.
Receiver Kamar Jorden has a broken hand and will be out for an extended period of time.
“The guys are working hard and they’re pushing through,” Frazier said. “They are at that point in training camp where this time kind of wears on them a little bit, wearing pads and banging like we banged. But they’ve been pushing through, which is a credit to their desire to improve our football team.”
Prepping for the preseason opener: Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and Williams aren’t sure how long the starters will play in Friday’s preseason opener, and Frazier is still trying to decide if many of the veteran players — such as Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield – will play at all.
“I’m still trying to decide on that,” Frazier said. “We really need to look at some other guys and kind of know where those guys are, but we’re going to make that decision here. We’re going to talk about it as a staff tonight and tomorrow.”
Frazier has already ruled out running back Adrian Peterson, saying he will be re-evaluated next week in his recovery from knee surgery. Frazier said Todman would also be held out of Friday’s game.