The Vikings wrap up a virtual offseason program this week without running back Dalvin Cook, who announced his intent to hold out until he gets a new contract. But there’s no question offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is in Cook’s corner.
Kubiak, a former Broncos head coach and coordinator, thought of Super Bowl MVP running back Terrell Davis when asked about Cook and the trend of NFL front offices devaluing the position.
“You’re probably talking to the wrong guy there,” Kubiak said Wednesday in his first Zoom video conference of the offseason program. “I love running backs. I’ve had some really good ones in my day. Got a couple world championship rings because of one I’m thinking of in my head right now.”
Cook’s holdout will continue into training camp without a deal, according to a league source. But because of changes in the new collective bargaining agreement, Cook would need to report to camp on time to earn a fourth credited season and qualify for unrestricted free agency next spring.
Even if the holdout continues, Kubiak said, he’s not concerned with Cook’s readiness for the opener, scheduled for Sept. 13 against the Packers. The Vikings offense is returning most starters, and Cook had 1,654 yards from scrimmage in Kubiak’s system last season.
“Dalvin could teach class. He’s that bright and that smart of a football player,” Kubiak said. “It’s part of the business, and guys like him, professionals like him take care of themselves. You understand they’re going to go through things like this and we all want the end product, so to speak, and go back to work, but those things take time.”
Cook turns 25 in August and, when healthy, he’s one of the NFL’s most elusive backs. There are durability concerns: He’s played only 29 of 48 regular-season games since they drafted him in the second round in 2017.
Coach Mike Zimmer and Kubiak think alike on the value of Cook and the run game, which Kubiak said he has impressed on newcomers during recent offensive meetings. The Vikings ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing attempts last season and won a playoff game with Cook in a lead role, which Kubiak wants to maintain.
“We walk into a room and tell our guys we’re committed to running the football and being a physical team,” he said. “I work for a head coach that talks that same way. It’s really just a mind-set and saying hey, we’re going to be good at doing this and we’re not going to find ways not to run the ball.”
Kubiak added he’s eager to coach in person. First-round receiver Justin Jefferson is among the 15 draft picks the Vikings will try to incorporate quickly at training camp, tentatively scheduled to open in late July.
Special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf said he was happy the front office retained veteran kicker Dan Bailey and punter/holder Britton Colquitt with new contracts this offseason. But Maalouf will have his hands full when everyone returns to prepare inexperienced pros to contribute.
“The good thing is we’ve shown them our drills, our expectations and what it’s supposed to look like,” he said. “But there’s not much time. That’s one thing I keep stressing to these guys is when we get together, everything has to be on point.”
Kubiak said NFL guidelines could make a return during the coronavirus pandemic “very complicated” with “a lot of effort on everybody’s part,” but he’s optimistic after meetings with the team’s medical staff. The Vikings recently reopened their Eagan headquarters to limited staff members — not players or coaches.
Because of competitive balance concerns, the league has said training camps can’t begin until all 32 teams are allowed to by local guidelines.
“When we sit in these meetings and we listen to some of these bright men talk about what we have to do, I would say it gets me excited,” Kubiak said. “You feel like we can get this done.”