Make the most out of second opportunities. O.J. Simpson did not, but Chris Cook should. The injured Minnesota Vikings cornerback misses football too much to make another dim-witted blunder. It was August 24, 2011 when Cook sat in jail wondering if his NFL career slipped through his fingers. The justice system gave him new life, so now it’s time to fulfill his potential.
Cook is a physically gifted corner, having also played quarterback, running back and wide receiver in high school. At 6’2” and 210 pounds, the University of Virginia alum is wildly effective at disrupting opponents’ routes near the line of scrimmage. Clocking a 4.46 40 time at the NFL Combine proved his speed was legitimate as well.
Concerns from academic ineligibility and persona in college sank Cook’s draft stock to Facebook levels, but Minnesota rolled the dice in the 2nd round (34th overall) to inject needed talent at his position.
Then-Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frasier was fairly impressed by Cook’s effort throughout training camp, and was slotted for regular season snaps until a torn meniscus spoiled the corner’s preseason. Several weeks later, the defensive back required surgery on his other knee, shutting down his rookie campaign.
Avoiding setbacks, Cook became the starter across Antoine Winfield as an NFL sophomore, but a lapse in judgment jeopardized all his hard work.
That fateful August morning, police arrived at Cook’s house to find his girlfriend bruised and bleeding. The player was charged with felony domestic assault and the Vikings swiftly suspended him for the rest of the season. Cook was crushed not only for his NFL future but for the loss of his future wife, whom he planned a proposal to the same day. Relieved after a non-guilty verdict, he knew at least one relationship could be repaired.
Cook needed to regain the trust of Frasier, who was now his head coach. It was mutually understood no more run-ins with the law would be tolerated. Cook felt no resistance from his teammates, who perceived him as thoughtful and generous before the incident. Now he could get back to football.
Cook opened 2012 as the starter, and recorded his first NFL sack in week one. The Vikings were pleased with his development, as his range was sorely missed. Just as he was settling in, Cook broke his right arm in week 6, and his return to the season is questionable. 3rd year man A.J. Jefferson has been underwhelming as his replacement.
Between battling legal charges (he was also acquitted for brandishing a firearm in 2011) and injuries, Cook has had little time to establish himself as a reliable NFL body. While we can dismiss his file at the sheriff’s department, his health has been a major problem since college, and durability is a significant trait in professional football. Cook has a year remaining on his rookie contract, so potential income and a mailing address are at stake. Minnesota may re-sign the cornerback regardless of his play due to lack of depth, but the 25 year old acknowledges that excuses are out the window.
“I always play with a chip on my shoulder,” Cook explained. “That’s just me…I don’t like to lose.” Well if the veteran does not want to lose his job, collecting his first NFL interception would go a long way. This is a critical offseason for Cook, who can use his past as fuel for motivation. At the very least, he can remind himself he is not rotting in a prison cell.