Notebook: Chris Cook mends, makes amends; offense comes out sloppy
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MANKATO, Minn. -- Chris Cook's first NFL season was a wash. His first NFL offseason started off even worse.
The Minnesota Vikings' top draft pick last year was arrested on March 12 for pulling a gun on his neighbor near his mother's house in Virginia. Cook denied pulling the gun and was acquitted by a judge in May, but it wasn't the way he intended to stay in the minds of coaches who had watched him scuffle through two knee injuries as a rookie.
"It was just he said, she said. I never did what the guy said I did," Cook said on Tuesday.
"I talked to coach (Leslie) Frazier ... and he was like, 'I know what type of guy you are, and I know you wouldn't do something like that in front of your mom's house.' He was never really mad at me. He just told me I have to be smarter about the situations I put myself in."
Cook was at right cornerback with the starting defense when the Vikings opened 7-on-7 passing drills on Tuesday morning. Asher Allen took over for the team (11-on-11) period, while Cedric Griffin -- who is practicing but hasn't been cleared for contract -- watched from the sideline.
That appears to put Cook and Allen neck-and-neck for nickel duties and perhaps more, depending on Griffin's recovery from a second knee reconstruction.
"We're trying to identify between the two of them where they're going to end up at in helping our ballclub," Frazier said. "No better time than now in training camp to try to get them equal reps, and we'll try to identify them in the preseason games as well and just try to see which guy is ahead of the other."
Cook has the superior physical skill set, with a 6-foot-2 frame and long arms that let him beat up receivers in press coverage. But that only can happen if he's healthy, which wasn't the case for most of last season.
He partially tore a meniscus in his right knee in a preseason game on Aug. 28, then suffered a similar injury on Sept. 26 to his left knee that never fully healed. The result was two surgeries, two benchings and a trip to injured reserve.
"It was very humbling," Cook said. "It made me very hungry to come back out here and show everybody what I can do -- and prove myself to myself."
He said he waited until late March or early April to start running and cutting again to avoid reinjury and still ices the left knee every day.
"I feel good," Cook said. "I came in at 211 (pounds) last year when I reported to camp. I am 200 this year. I feel better far as weight-wise and conditioning. It's just a better year for me."
Toby Gerhart's NFL career started with bang. Or at least it felt that way to him one year ago.
The Vikings' second-round draft pick was the last rookie to report to camp in 2010, and veteran teammates welcomed him with a series of big hits, capped by a cheap shot from Ray Edwards that set off a scrum in the final full-squad practice.
"I got hit a few times -- laid out a few times actually," Gerhart recalled with a smile on Tuesday. "It's a learning experience. My rookie year, I kind of expected to take some shots. This year, much more confident and relaxed and really having fun out here."
Gerhart took the first-team reps on Tuesday in the absence of All-Pro Adrian Peterson, who left the team after his fiancée went into labor on Monday afternoon.
Frazier said he hadn't talked to Peterson since he left camp and wasn't sure if he'd return on Wednesday but "did get a report that things are moving right along. I'll learn more this afternoon, but everything I've been told is positive so far."
The offense scuffled badly during brief 7-on-7 and team (11-on-11) periods, the first competitive drills of camp.
Chad Greenway intercepted a Joe Webb pass on the first play of 7-on-7. Jamarca Sanford picked off Webb on a pass that went through rookie Andre Holmes' hands. Rhett Bomar dropped a snap from rookie center Brandon Fusco -- drawing a cry of "Fire Childress!" from the bleachers -- and botched a handoff to Lorenzo Booker on the final play of team.
"Just the timing regarding having an offense that's in sync is probably more of a factor than the language or anything we were doing in that regard," Frazier said. "Just the timing between the quarterback, the receiver, the handoffs with the running backs -- those things require a little bit more than E.J. (Henderson) standing in the huddle and telling our guys we're playing base front, base coverage."
It wasn't all bad on offense. Percy Harvin drew cheers with a leaping catch over Asher Allen in team, and rookie Christian Ponder connected on a 7-on-7 bomb to Jaymar Johnson, who burned cornerback Cord Parks up the sideline before laying out for the catch.
Practice continued without 15 players who remain ineligible to participate until the new league year begins on Thursday, when the Vikings are scheduled to hold their first fully padded practice.
That list includes several projected starters -- quarterback Donovan McNabb, nose tackle Remi Ayodele, safety Husain Abdullah, place-kicker Ryan Longwell and Erin Henderson, who is "penciled in" at weakside linebacker, Frazier said -- and apparently, they won't be eased into the fray.
"They will be thrown right into the mix," Frazier said. "That's what they're here to do. They understand that. Remi will start right off at nose, Donovan will start right off at quarterback and right on down the line. This is the hand we've been dealt, and our guys are excited to get started."
• With Erin Henderson sidelined, Jasper Brinkley has been taking all the first-team reps on the weak side -- the most extended action outside in the middle linebacker's NFL career. "At the end of the day, you're still playing linebacker," said Brinkley, who acknowledged he prefers to play inside. "One thing I know, you don't have to carry the middle (in coverage), so that's a plus, obviously. Your drops are shorter, so that kind of takes some of the stress off you."
• Frazier said there is "a very good chance" the Vikings will find a role on offense for Webb, who has been taking the bulk of reps with the No. 1 offense in McNabb's absence. "I'm sure they have a couple of packages in," Webb said, "but right now, my main focus is just concentrate on running the first-team offense."
• The Vikings are scheduled to put on shoulder pads for the first time on Wednesday, when they practice at 9 a.m. and hold a walkthrough at 3 p.m. They won't be in full pads until Thursday.