Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t get flowery when speaking of his players.
The surly 65-year-old coach rarely breaks coachspeak in his press conferences as a measure of keeping his team humble.
Then there’s Dalvin Cook.
Zimmer shared the background story of Cook’s hasty recovery from a dislocated shoulder injury in time for Thursday night’s primetime matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 38-26 win where Cook rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Cook became the third running back in NFL history to rush for 200 or more yards after missing a game the previous week, per SportingNews.
It was a feat that left Zimmer willing to cut through the banal ho-hum nature of his postgame press conferences.
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Cook Shows Little Doubt in Text Conversation With Team Trainer
After digesting the dramatics of another single-score game that’s become commonplace for the Vikings, Zimmer shared a candid story of Cook’s perseverance and willingness to play just 11 days after dislocating his shoulder.
“I think he’s a warrior. He comes out and competes. He’s a great leader. He’s a great competitor he wants to play,” Zimmer said in a postgame press conference on December 9. “Eric Sugarman, our trainer, texted him today and said, ‘Hey, are you sure you’re okay? You’re good to go?’ He says, ‘I have no regrets. I’m good to go. This is why I do this, ’cause I want to play.’ That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Zimmer disclosed that the team’s trainers told him Cook was doing well and had a “good chance” of playing Thursday.
But given the finicky nature of injuries and the risk of re-aggravation, many players, for personal reasons, often opt to refrain from playing until they are 100%.
“There was no doubt (in his mind) that he was playing,” Zimmer said of Cook, who wore a harness on Thursday night that may as well been a bullseye for the Steelers defense.
With the help of the offensive line, Cook ran roughshod through the teeth of Pittsburgh’s defense, producing the second-highest rushing total of his career behind a 206-yard performance against the Detroit Lions in 2020. It was the ninth 200-plus yard rushing game in Vikings history. Adrian Peterson holds the NFL record for the most 200-yard-rushing games with six games of at least 200 yards on the ground, including one for an NFL-record 296 yards, per SportingNews.
“The holes were big all night,” Cook said after the game. “So you’ve gotta give those guys credit up front. They’re my guys. They did a great job of blocking for me tonight. Receivers, tight ends, everybody did a great job of blocking for me tonight. I’m just hitting holes and trying to find some space out there.”
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Cook Lets His Dogs Out
After the Steelers win, Cook entered the postgame press conference barefooted, Vikings.com’s Lindsey Young reported.
“My feet hurt,” he said nonchalantly, per Young. “Gotta give the dogs a break.”
It was a similar response that Cook ended his press conference with when asked about being called a warrior by Zimmer and linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Shrugging off the compliment of his character, Cook put it simply: he’s a team player.
“Whatever a Viking is,” he said.