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Vikings running back Cook vows to be 'better than ever' following torn ACL

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) holds his knee after being tackled in the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium on Oct. 1. Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Dalvin Cook was in high school in 2012, but he knows all about how well Adrian Peterson came back from a severe knee injury that season. Now he's hoping to provide another comeback story by a Vikings running back.

Cook suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Oct. 1, knocking him out for the rest of the season. The rookie spoke to the media Thursday for the first time since his injury and touched upon Peterson, who suffered a torn ACL in December 2011 and the next season rushed for 2,097 yards and won the NFL's MVP Award.

"A.P. came back incredible," Cook said. "He's just a freak of nature. You rarely get guys like that. When you get ACL surgery, that's the main goal: You want to come back like A.P."

So how good does Cook plan to be next season?

"Truly, in my opinion, I just think I'll just come back better than ever," he said.

Cook had rushed for 354 yards when he went down in the third quarter of a loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 4. He was making a cut on a 10-yard run when his knee buckled.

"It was kind of like a funny feeling," he said. "I kind of knew something was wrong, but it just wasn't hurting and I just kept telling the trainers, 'I'm good. Ain't nothing wrong with me.' But the next day, it kind of stiffened up and I knew something was wrong."

Cook, 22, said the support he has received since the injury has helped pull him out of a funk.

"I was definitely disappointed because I always want to be out there for my team to help them win," he said. "Injuries are just part of the game. You've got to accept that and run with it. But as players, we want to be out there so bad that sometimes we don't accept it.

"I was lucky enough to have teammates around me to comfort me at the moment, coaches, my family."

Cook had surgery Oct. 9 in Florida, performed by orthopedics specialist Dr. James Andrews, and said his rehabilitation is "going good." He was able to discard his crutches last week and resumed lifting weights this week.

Teammate Teddy Bridgewater, who has returned from suffering a torn left ACL in August 2016, has been among those encouraging and advising Cook. The two dress next to one another in the Vikings' Winter Park locker room.

"He's right there next to me every day, pushing me, telling me just keep your head down, keep working," Cook said. "Teddy's just a good guy overall to have in your corner when you're going through tough times.

"This process here, man, it'll challenge your manhood. ... Those first two weeks, man, it's crazy, because you've got the pain levels and you've still got to fight through it going through the rehab. ... Teddy, he used to call me every day. ... He just pushed me through it."

Bridgewater has been impressed with how well Cook has done in his rehab.

"He has the right mindset as far as tackling his therapy, and having gone through a knee injury last year, he can lean on me and I give him different advice," Bridgewater said.

Cook has gotten advice from other Minnesota players who have suffered the same injury, including quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Case Keenum, running back Latavius Murray and offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles.

Bradford, who suffered torn left ACL injuries in 2013 and 2014, is on injured reserve after hurting that knee again in Week 1. He spends plenty of time with Cook in the training room.

"Just to sit there and have a conversation with him, because Sam's a quiet guy, it's good," Cook said.

Murray and Jerick McKinnon have shared the rushing load since Cook's injury. They have combined to run for 636 yards on 174 carries, a 3.6-yard average.

Cook said he hasn't set a goal for his return, but athletic trainer Eric Sugarman has said he expects Cook will be ready for training camp next July.

"I'm young, I'm going to heal up," Cook said. "I'm going to be back out there with my team as soon as possible."