[size=18px]Ryan Cook: A CHIP ON HIS SHOULDER[/size]
Author: Mike Wobschall, vikings.com
Perhaps you can draw a parallel between Ryan Cook's freshman season at New Mexico and his upcoming rookie season with the Vikings. At New Mexico he was a walk-on - the new guy with a lot to prove. Certainly not a walk on with the Vikings, the second round draft pick does have a lot to prove. But, at 6-6 and 328 pounds he also has a lot to work with.
"I feel normal now," Cook joked about arriving at Winter Park. "In New Mexico everyone's about 5-4, so I feel a bit more normal here and I fit in with the guys."
And that's just what the Vikings want him to do - fit in with the rest of the offensive line. Last season the offensive line was arguably the most inconsistent unit on the team. But with the return of four-time All-Pro Matt Birk from injury, the signing of left guard Steve Hutchinson and the continuous rise of Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, the Vikings seem to have shored up any shortcomings from last season. Another draft-day move brought right guard Artis Hicks to the mix - a five year starter brought in from the Philadelphia Eagles.
"They didn't bring these guys in for nothing," Cook said about the Vikings efforts to bolster the offensive line. "I'm just trying to come in here and learn quickly and show the coaches that I'll do anything to help the team."
Having a veteran such as Birk will help speed along the development of Cook.
"He's a four time Pro Bowler and he's been here eight years, going on nine," Cook said of Birk. "So he's definitely a mentor for me and I asked him a few questions right away and he helped me out and taught me a few tricks of the trade."
Though the prospects for Cook playing immediately aren't high, the three-year All- Mountain West Conference honoree gives the team some added depth at center, a spot with which the Vikings have struggled due to health issues with Birk. Now that Birk is back and 100% healthy, the Vikings look to Cook to add depth at center and perhaps compete for time at right guard and right tackle.
"I've been playing center," Cook said about his first couple weeks with the team. "And that is probably the hardest spot on the line to learn with all the calls you have to make. But I've also been playing a little bit of tackle and that's something that hopefully in the future will allow me to get out there once I learn the system more."
As is the case with all rookies as they make their journey from the college ranks to the NFL, Cook has had to make plenty of adjustments.
"The tempo is a little faster than the collegiate game definitely, so I'd say that's the biggest adjustment," Cook said. "Learning the playbook is another adjustment. It's a big jump from the collegiate level. You just come in and try to be aggressive and learn as much as fast as possible so you can be adjusted to this level and the speed of the game."
Cook's three All-MWC selections speak for themselves in regard to his ability at the collegiate level. He started 44 of the 47 games he played at New Mexico, never allowing an opponent to tally more than three tackles in a single game. He came to campus a bit under the radar, joining the team as a walk-on only to earn a full scholarship in the fall of 2002.
Reaction by some towards the Vikings third overall selection in the 2006 draft proves that Cook has again arrived to his team under the radar.
"There's a parallel there," Cook says in comparing his walk-on season with his rookie year in the NFL. "You come in as a walk-on and you have a chip on your shoulder and you come to an organization such as the Vikings as a rookie and you're just trying to make the team and show them that you can play. I just try to carry that chip with me always and try to keep the fire and intensity going."
A CHIP ON HIS SHOULDER