For those who might suggest Dalvin Cook could be worn down by his heavy workload, the Minnesota Vikings running back had something to say Wednesday, Dec. 2.
Cook has averaged 25.4 carries and 28.8 total touches over the past five games. He’s on pace to become just the third different Minnesota back to have a 300-carry season.
“I don’t know what that is, wear down. What is that? What does that mean?” Cook said. “I’m a running back just like everybody else. I don’t think that’s a question you’d ask (Tennessee’s) Derrick Henry or anybody else. I’m a running back, ain’t no wear down. I’m ready to tote the ball. It’s football.”
In a radio interview with KFAN that aired Tuesday, Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Cook has gotten “beat up” in recent games and that the Vikings need to get him “freshened up this week and get him back to being himself.”
Cook suffered an ankle injury early in the third quarter of last Sunday’s 28-27 win over Carolina and sat out until returning late in the quarter. He practiced Wednesday on a limited basis but said before the workout he would be “good to go” Sunday against Jacksonville at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“There’s been some physical games, and we knew teams were going to come in to try to play this run pretty good,” Cook said of his recent workload. “We’ve got to keep pounding. … We don’t have to change anything. … Like (Kubiak) said, I’ve been taking some pretty good shots, but my process of getting my body ready has put me in position to stay fresh.”
Cook ranks second in the NFL with 219 attempts and 1,130 rushing yards behind Henry, who has 256 carries for 1,257 yards. Cook has 29 receptions for 255 yards, giving him 248 total touches to 270 for Henry.
However, Cook has missed one game this season, and nearly a full half of another, with a groin injury. So, he is averaging 24.8 touches per game in the 10 games he has appeared to Henry’s 24.5 in the 11 he has played.
Cook has rushed for a combined 272 yards in the past three games after gaining 369 in the two before that. He has lost fumbles in each of the past two games after taking hard hits.
Cook got up slowly after catching a short pass and losing the ball when he was belted by Dallas safety Donovan Wilson on Nov. 22. Against the Panthers, he was helped off the field with his ankle injury after he was hit by a swarm of tacklers early in the third quarter and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
“You’ve got guys at the bottom of the pile doing things and it was just weird,” Cook said of that play. “The way my ankle felt at the moment, it was just one of those times where you just didn’t know. Just had to get back on my feet, keep going.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer said before Wednesday’s practice that Cook’s “health is fine” and that the Vikings are going to “try to be smart about how we use him.” Asked if that means potentially reducing his touches, Zimmer said it will depend on how games go.
With the Vikings (5-6) battling to make the playoffs, former star running back Chuck Foreman said they might not be able to afford reducing Cook’s load.
“He’s in phenomenal shape, and they’re a better team when he’s touching the ball,” said Foreman, who played for the Vikings from 1973-79. “They’re fighting to make the playoffs and everything’s up in the air, so you’ve got to go with your best people. They’ve just got to ride it out and hope he stays healthy.”
Foreman stayed healthy in 1975 when he had the heaviest workload per game ever by a Minnesota back. In a 14-game season, he carried 280 times for 1,070 yards and caught 73 passes for an average of 25.2 touches per game. The heaviest workload Adrian Peterson had was in 2008, when he had a team-record 363 carries and 21 receptions for 384 touches.
Cook is on pace to become the third different Vikings running back to have 300 carries in a season. Peterson did it four times and Chester Taylor had 303 attempts in 2006.
“That’s part of making plays (is to) keep taking those hits,” Cook said. “The hits don’t bother me. It’s the unnecessary stuff that bothers me.”
So what exactly are those unnecessary hits?
“I talk a lot of trash,” Cook said with a laugh. “I probably deserve it.”