Dalvin Cook gingerly walked up to the podium, sans shoes, following the Minnesota Vikings’ thrilling 36-28 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.
“My feet hurt,” Cook said. “You’ve gotta give the dogs a break. I’m good, though.”
The Vikings running back certainly deserved to kick his feet up after rushing for 205 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers in his faster-than-expected return from a shoulder injury.
Just 11 days after Cook dislocated his shoulder in San Francisco, an injury that kept him out of last week’s loss at previously winless Detroit, he lined up in the backfield and enjoyed the most running room he has seen all season. Cook set a franchise record with 153 rushing yards in the first half, and he needed only 14 carries to do it. As a team, the Vikings finished with 5.1 yards per rush before contact against the Steelers, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
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“The holes were big all night,” Cook said. “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.”
Cook wore the same harness to support his left shoulder that he wore in 2019, when he suffered a similar injury. He was initially expected to miss two games after he was carted off the field in the fourth quarter of Minnesota’s loss at San Francisco in Week 12. He missed Sunday’s loss to the Lions but was listed as questionable for Thursday night’s game after being a limited participant at practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
Coach Mike Zimmer said he was told after practice Tuesday that Cook had a good chance of playing, given how well he had been progressing with his rehab.
“I think he’s a warrior,” Zimmer said. “He comes out and competes. He’s a great leader. He’s a great competitor. He wants to play. Eric Sugarman, our trainer, texted him today and said, ‘Hey, are you sure you’re OK and good to go?’ He said, ‘I have no regrets, I’m good to go.’ He said, ‘That’s why I do this, I want to play.’
“That’s the kind of guy he is. There was no doubt in his mind he was playing tonight.”
Cook, 26, has rushed for 978 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games this season and also has 28 receptions. He is the NFL’s second-leading rusher — along with Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon — despite missing three games and is third in the league in average rushing yards per game at 97.8.
The Vikings (6-7) had ruled out wide receiver Adam Thielen (ankle) and rookie offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (ankle) for Thursday night’s game.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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