Chris Cook (Kevin Brown/Viking Update)
Chris Cook got his first start in the base defense last week because of a concussion to Asher Allen, but Cook might have done enough to grab hold of the starting job for now. Plus, what does Ryan Longwell think of Brett Favre’s chances of playing next year?
Rookie Chris Cook is feeling better and playing better, and his improvement might just land him the starting job at right cornerback for the rest of the season.
Before Sunday’s game at Chicago, Cook had started three games, but that was in the nickel defense. He entered Soldier Field as the starting right cornerback because of a concussion to Asher Allen the previous week and it’s looking like Cook’s showing against the Bears might have been good enough to keep him there.
“I feel like I played good. Best game I’ve played so far from a technique standpoint and from an endurance standpoint,” Cook said. “… I feel like I moved my best. That was my best game (Sunday) and I just have to keep moving forward.”
Moving forward, with Asher Allen returning to practice, Vikings coach Brad Childress wouldn’t commit to Allen resuming his starting role.
“I don’t know if he’ll be the starter if he does (return),” Childress said. “We’ll just see how he practices, but I am expecting him back.”
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier called Allen’s situation with a concussion “tenuous,” but it appears he will be in line to play Sunday after practicing Wednesday and Thursday.
The Vikings gave up 237 yards passing to Bears QB Jay Cutler and Cook was credited with four tackles. But after surgeries to repair the meniscus in each of his knees since the third week of the preseason, his confidence appears to be growing.
“I always have the confidence, it was just getting my techniques right,” he said.
He’ll have to be on point at Mall of America Field against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Rogers is ranked in the top 10 among NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage and yards.
“They’re going to throw the ball around a lot. They’ve had some success on us the last time we saw them so I’m expecting them to throw the ball around,” Cook said.
At Lambeau Field, the Packers compiled 295 yards passing against Minnesota, the highest amount the Vikings have allowed this season. After facing Jay Cutler last week in his first week back as a starter in the base defense, Cook sees similarities between the two NFC North quarterbacks.
“They are kind of similar because both of them scramble out and throw the ball pretty well. I can’t really say how they are alike and different besides the way they scramble and they like to move around in the pocket,” Cook said.
Cook began his comeback from his second knee injury at Lambeau Field on Oct. 24, but his role was limited after he struggled early. Childress sees him improving the healthier he gets.
“I think there’s another guy that’s grown in the system,” Childress said. “He had just come back in the Green Bay the last time. He was going to try to play. Couldn’t really play at the level he needed to play. I know that he’s looking forward to playing this week.”
PRESSURE THE KEY
Cook said part of the reason that Cutler and the Bears had some success against the Vikings defense was that Cutler had more time to survey the field. After the Vikings registered six sacks against QB Derek Anderson and the Arizona Cardinals, they got only one (from Jared Allen) against the Bears.
“(Cutler) definitely had way too much time, but it is what it is,” Cook said. “It all works together, pass rush and coverage, and I’m sure those guys are going to ramp it up this week against Green Bay because we’ve got Aaron Rodgers.”
NO DOUBT ON FAVRE
Perhaps no one on the Vikings knows Brett Favre better than kicker Ryan Longwell, who played with Favre on the Packers and again with the Vikings the past two years. Longwell left little wiggle room when asked if he believes this is the quarterback’s final NFL season.
“Without a doubt. When we went down to Mississippi, the three of us to talk to him, that was pretty much adamant even before he agreed to come back,” Longwell said. “So, yeah, I have no doubt this is his last year.”
Despite all the distractions that Favre has had to deal with this year – his ankle surgery, his decision on whether or not to come back, and the allegations against him for sending inappropriate messages and photos to former Jets employee Jenn Sterger – Longwell said Favre is handling it all with aplomb.
“I think Brett's really in a good place, I really do, with everything that has gone on and could be said about it,” Longwell said. “The one thing that to his credit he's done, the second he said he's coming when we were down in Hattiesburg, he's given his full throttle from that point on. There hasn't been any, ‘Man, why did I come back?’ or any of that stuff. It's been the same old Brett and unfortunately things haven't gone our way to this point, but his attitude hasn't changed. Like I said, he's been in a really good place right now.”
While Favre may be handling all the distractions, the Vikings are 3-6 and in a desperate state, as they trail Green Bay and Chicago by three games with a loss to each of them. It’s hard to discount the effects of the never-ending storylines the Vikings have produced off the field this year.
“It's been crazy. There's really no other way to put it. We've been kind of a headline story every week and little or none of it has had to do with football,” Longwell said. “So, with our success we had last year, we all expected big things this year and so we knew there was more of a spotlight on us and it just seemed like once we got to Mankato, it was something every week has come up, whether Brett's going to come back or not and then going down to get him and we've had some big national games as far as the opener and obviously the stuff that's gone on off the field with Brett and then with Moss and now with the chants of ‘Fire Childress’ at our homes games. It's just been a crazy, crazy year.”
Wide receiver Bernard Berrian returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with a groin injury that prevented him from playing Sunday. Berrian was active on Sunday but told the coaches after the inactives were submitted that he couldn’t go after he apparently aggravated his groin injury in pregame warmups.
“Whatever happened, happened. It’s water under the bridge. Is it the way you’d like it to happen? No. You’d like to have somebody else up,” Childress said. “I’ve seen it happen before.”
Childress said former Eagles defensive lineman Hollis Thomas broke his foot jogging down the ramp before a game and former Eagles receiver Todd Pinkston got ash from pregame fireworks in his eye.
Safety Eric Frampton (hamstring) was the only Viking that didn't practice Thursday.
In addition to Berrian, QB Brett Favre (ankle/foot), WR Percy Harvin (ankle), G Anthony Herrera (elbow) and C John Sullivan (calf) were limited.
For the Packers, WR Donald Driver (quadriceps), LB Clay Matthews (shin), DE Ryan Pickett (ankle), CB Charles Woodson (toe), FB Korey Hall (back) and C Scott Wells (arch) were limited.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.