Vikings RB Dalvin Cook switching jerseys to honor late father

 Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball during the first half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 20, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images / FOX 9)

The Minnesota Vikings have started their offseason workout plan at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, and Dalvin Cook was beaming with a smile as he addressed reporters Tuesday morning.

Sure, he’s excited about new head coach Kevin O’Connell and having an offensive mind leading the Vikings. But he’s most looking forward to donning a new jersey for the 2022 season. No. 33 is gone, and he’s trading it out for No. 4. It was his football jersey most of his life, and runs in his family. He wore it during his stellar career at Florida State.

He promised his late father he would wear it one day in the NFL.

"That number means a lot to me, I started playing football because of my bigger brother, and he wore No. 4. I try to carry the legacy on, it’s like a tradition in my family," Cook said Tuesday.

He says he’s a different player with that number, and his teammates at the facility have always called him No. 4.

"Mentally I’m better in that number. You’re going to see a version that you’ve never seen before. You’re going to see something special," Cook said.

"We don’t call him 33, we call him 4. To see him back in that 4, he grew up with that number. I feel like that 4 gives him the extra confidence that he already had," receiver Justin Jefferson said.

Cook wanted to switch the jersey last year, but it would’ve cost him. He had to buy out the remaining No. 33 jerseys to make it happen, and he says he would’ve had to pay about $1.2 million. He joked he’d need a GoFundMe to get it done.

In 13 games last season, Cook ran for 1,159 yards and six touchdowns. He started 14 games in 2019 and 2020, and combined for nearly 2,700 yards and 29 touchdowns. He’s earned three straight trips to the Pro Bowl.

Cook, and several of his teammates, feel the Vikings are on the verge of something big under O’Connell and the new coaching staff.

"Loving the energy in the building. His message is about always being on one page and we’re going to attack this thing as one. Around here it’s all about we, it’s all about us," Cook said. "I’m just happy we got KO, it should be something special going on around here. You can just feel it in the building, it’s a good energy around."


When Justin Jefferson became aware shortly after the season the Vikings were searching for a new head coach, two things entered his mind: Would the coach be an offensive or defense mind? Could the coach be relatable to players.

O’Connell is coming off winning a Super Bowl with the L.A. Rams as offensive coordinator, and has preached communication and collaboration since the day he was hired. Jefferson first got a gauge on O’Connell after talking to Rams’ receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

"He definitely gave some great words. I’ve been hearing nothing but great things about him, he’s been doing good so far," Jefferson said.

He also saw what O’Connell did for Cooper Kupp, turning him into one of the top receivers in the NFL. Jefferson made history himself last year, shattering the NFL record for receiving yards in his first two seasons. He set a Vikings’ franchise record for receptions, and was 17 yards short of Randy Moss’s single-season receiving yards record.

There was no sophomore slump for Jefferson, but he knows he has to be even better in 2022.

"There’s a target on my back at this point," Jefferson said.


Adam Thielen is entering his ninth NFL season, and was one of several Vikings’ players to restructure his contract to help the team’s salary cap, and solidify his future in Minnesota.

Thielen will make about $14.4 million this season, which includes a $9 million roster bonus and lowers his hit against the salary cap by about $4 million. He was originally set to make $16.8 million against the cap, and is under contract through the 2024 season.

Thielen started 13 games last season and finished with 67 catches on 95 targets for 726 yards and 10 touchdowns, which is the second-highest in his career. Thielen has 141 catches for 1,651 yards and 24 touchdowns the last two seasons. He has not played a full season since 2018, which was also his last 1,000-yard receiving year.

So why did he agree to the restructure?

"I wanted to be here, I wanted to help this team win and I wanted to make sure I knew I was going to be here and there was some security so I could just go play ball," Thielen said. "I’d hate to not be here with all the changes and all the excitement. I would hate to leave at this point in my career, hopefully I can retire a Viking."