Chris Cook (Alissa Foreman/VU)
CB Chris Cook is making the adjustment from left cornerback to the right side and could become a starter there soon. Plus, E.J. Henderson appears all the way back, but Percy Harvin isn’t there just yet.
Four weeks after starting training camp as a backup left cornerback, rookie Chris Cook could have the right stuff to become a starter on the other side of the field.
The Vikings initially put Cook as one of Antoine Winfield’s backups at left cornerback, but another indication of his progress came this week when he was moved to the right side, which could open up the opportunity for him to being the season as a starter. Cedric Griffin, the Vikings’ starter at right cornerback last year, remains on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list and might start the season with that designation, which would mean he couldn’t play for the first six games.
While Griffin continues to progress in his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 24, Cook continues to ascend on the depth chart.
“They told me at the beginning of the week that I was going to start getting some reps with the ones on the right side. I’m just out there trying to take full advantage of it and make every play that comes along,” Cook said after Thursday’s practice. “This is the first time (on the right side), besides rookie minicamp because I was playing both sides.”
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Cook, second-year pro Asher Allen and veteran Lito Sheppard would all get reps at right cornerback in Saturday’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. The third preseason game is when the starters get the most action, and they are expected to play into the first series of the second half.
Vikings coach Brad Childress wasn’t ready to name Cook a starter. Neither was Frazier, who said Cook and Allen are still making “rookie mistakes” on occasion.
“No question, that still occurs. And that’s going to happen during the season too, unfortunately. That’s part of it, because they don’t have the experience,” Frazier said. “The only way you get it is by playing and sometimes making mistakes and learning from them. You can talk to Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, they will all tell you the same thing: first and second year, and particularly that first year, things are happening so fast, then they begin to slow down as you begin to play a little further in your career. There will be some learning; there will be some things that we have to deal with. But they are talented enough that they will learn fast and grow fast as players.”
The immediate challenge for Cook, the team’s top pick (second round) in this year’s draft, will be transitioning from the left side to the right side.
“The first day the footwork was kind of different for me, but after that I felt pretty good. A few plays into the first day I felt pretty good. It didn’t take that long to get comfortable,” Cook said.
“Every game is a step. I have to take one step at a time.”
But he’s also done well enough to earn some encouraging words from Childress, who noted that Cook played on the right side his senior year after playing mostly left cornerback in previous years at Virginia.
“We’re worried a little bit about the footwork. I think he’s done some OK things over there,” Childress said. “I think he’s probably more comfortable just because he spent all those turns at training camp on the left, but we’ll get a chance to see him play over there a little bit. Typically (with) a right-handed quarterback, (there are) not as many throws on the left side of the field. Now, if they like a matchup and they feel like that’s a matchup, they’ll go after a guy regardless. But typically, with a right-handed quarterback, on the left side doesn’t get as many tries as the defensive left cornerback.”
Cook feels he has made progress in the last month, but he still sees a couple areas where he needs to shore up his game.
“Being disciplined with my eyes. Just being a more technical player, which was the biggest thing I felt like I needed to work on and when I first got here,” he said.
A good showing Saturday night could put him in the driver’s seat to earn the top spot on the right side.
NO HITCH FOR E.J.
E.J. Henderson got his first game action Sunday night since fracturing his femur in Arizona Dec. 6. Henderson said he didn’t have any hesitation about playing, and Frazier said there was no evidence of hesitancy in Henderson’s performance.
“We all were pleased with the way that he performed. I didn’t see much of a hitch at all. It really gives you hope that he is beyond that injury, possibly,” Frazier said. “So we will get some more tape in this ballgame and we will be able to evaluate him again with a back-to-back ballgame, so we will see.”
HOPE FOR HARVIN?
Percy Harvin’s comeback is far from complete.
The wide receiver was on the practice field at Winter Park Wednesday, but, despite catching some passes, he didn’t go through a full practice.
Harvin is working his way back after collapsing on the practice field last Thursday and being taken to the hospital in an ambulance. On Thursday, he showed up to practice about a half hour before its conclusion in street clothes.
“Really didn’t practice yesterday. He stood there with his pads and his helmet on, just to kind of seed his pads and caught a couple footballs. … That’s really the extent of what he did, aside from stretching,” Vikings coach Brad Childress said after Thursday’s practice.
Childress said Harvin still has another test to undergo before he starts practicing again, but Childress was still hopeful for Harvin’s availability on Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks.
“That’s my hope,” Childress said. “Hard for me to handicap it.”
Without Harvin and Sidney Rice, who had hip surgery on Monday, and with the additions of Greg Camarillo (via trade) and Javon Walker (as a free-agent signing) this week, Childress said the offense is “in flux.”
Linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Kenny Onatolu were missing from practice on Thursday for unspecified reasons. Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy isn’t expected to play either because of an unspecified injury. Kennedy has hasn’t practiced all week.
Jared Allen did return to practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday with a neck injury.
The Vikings practiced Thursday on Mall of America Field because a new Sportexe turf was installed this summer and will see its first game action Saturday. Childress said it got good reviews from the players.