MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Vikings fans took a collective deep breath last week when it was made public that running back Dalvin Cook is sitting out team meetings and activities until he can work out a new contract with the team.
Cook, who ran for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, and was the No. 2 receiver for Kirk Cousins, is due to make $1.3 million in base salary this season. He’s underpaid in the grand scheme of NFL economics, not even in the top 50 of the league’s running backs. Difficult conversations are ahead with GM Rick Spielman and the front office. He wants to get paid, and the team will likely face financial difficulties due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
One guy who isn’t worried? The guy who is planning on centering the Vikings’ offense around Cook: Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. He said, “It’s a business” when asked Wednesday morning about Cook’s status.
“When it comes to contracts, I’m not a negotiator. That’s between Rick and Dalvin, but it’s part of the business. We all understand that, those guys will do their jobs. We have to stay focused on our job as a football team moving forward. We support Dalvin, Rick and he will go about their business,” Kubiak told reporters on Zoom.
Kubiak is even less concerned about Cook falling behind if and when the contract situation gets resolved. Already a year into Kubiak’s zone run scheme, Cook had a career year in 2019 despite missing two games and halves of two others with injuries.
“Dalvin Cook is a very bright guy. He has as good a grasp on what we do and how we go about it. Dalvin could teach class, he’s that bright and that smart of a football player,” Kubiak said. “It’s part of the business. Guys like him, professionals like him, they take care of themselves.”
Like all of us, Kubiak is ready to return to some type of normalcy. He just wants to get back out on the football field, coaching and teaching.
For the last two months, he’s been confined to a condo and is teaching from a computer instead of from the sidelines on the practice fields at TCO Performance Center. He doesn’t know when the team will return, but he’ll be ready when they get the call.
“Well I can tell you I know a hell of a lot more about computers than I did six months ago. It just kind of motivates you again. A new way of doing things, how good a job did you do? Did you teach well? Were they grasping it? I think we’re going to find out all those things when it comes time to go back,” Kubiak said.
With or without Cook, the Vikings aren’t going to go way from running the football. It’s what Kubiak is known for. Minnesota improved from the No. 30 rushing team in the NFL in 2018 to No. 6 last year, with Kubiak coming on as an offensive advisor to Mike Zimmer.
The Vikings averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season in the zone run scheme. Kubiak credits it to staying committed to the run game, and playing physical at the line of scrimmage.
“Anything you do in life or football, if you’re committed to something you’ve probably got a pretty good chance at being successful at it. We really start our classroom, we walk into a room and tell our guys we’re committed to running the football and being a physical team. I work for a head coach that talks that same way, so it’s just really a mindset,” Kubiak said.
Kubiak said coaches have had about double the normal classroom time with players than normal due to Covid-19 and the virtual off-season. He’s excited to see how it translates to the field when the time comes.
“We haven’t run one football play yet so we’ve got to be smart when we get these guys in here and take it a day at a time and try not to do too much too quick,” Kubiak said. “It’s going to be about the season, not about the first day so we’ve got a plan in place.”