FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Dalvin Cook stepped into the practice huddle for the New York Jets for the first time and finally settled into his new backfield.
“Now I feel like I’m part of the Jets,” a smiling Cook said Tuesday. “Now I feel like I’m part of the team.”
It has been a whirlwind past several months for the star running back, who had offseason shoulder surgery, was released by Minnesota for salary cap reasons, visited the Jets during training camp, considered his options before signing with New York and then recently witnessed the birth of his first child.
“It was just a lot going on,” Cook said. “Now I get to dig deep into the playbook, get familiar with the guys in the huddle and just have fun with this, with the guys I've got in the locker room. I’m ready to go. It’s a lot of fun.”
The 28-year-old running back signed a one-year deal with the Jets two weeks ago, a contract that could be worth up to $8.6 million including incentives. Cook is expected to complement Breece Hall, who was a frontrunner for AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors until he tore a knee ligament in Week 7 last season.
Cook is healthy, but will be limited at first — he said he did every drill Tuesday — and so will Hall, who was recently activated from the physically unable to perform list.
“We feel really confident about him and his ability to just hit the ground running,” coach Robert Saleh said of Cook. “It’s just a matter of getting his legs underneath him. But at the same time, he hasn’t had a camp, hasn’t had OTAs, he’s been working, he’s been traveling a lot with the baby, so we just have to be smart with him.”
But having Cook and Hall in the backfield could mean double trouble for defenses, and that doesn't even count the versatile and shifty Michael Carter mixing in, too.
“A lot of people are going to put us at the top, but we've just got to go put the work in,” Cook said. “We've got to go put it on the grass. ... The talent that Breece has, the young talent he has, I think we’re going to be something special together. We've just got to go do it.”
Cook is used to being a No. 1 running back, having rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of the past four seasons and being selected for the past four Pro Bowl teams. He said he has no problem sharing the carries with the Jets in whatever role coordinator Nathaniel Hackett devises for him in his offense.
“I'm kind of excited to see,” Cook said. “I've got a great skill set and I come with a unique skill set, which I can catch the ball out of the backfield. I could be explosive from any position around the offense, so I’m just looking forward to how they use me. I’m available, man, for anything.”
The opportunity to join quarterback Aaron Rodgers was a big factor in making the Jets an attractive option for Cook, who wanted to be with a team that had its sights set on making a deep playoff run.
And Cook can call Rodgers a teammate now after six years of seeing him twice a season in the NFC North as an opponent.
“Just being in the huddle with him, it’s like, ‘All right, I’m in the huddle with A-Rod,’” Cook said with a big grin. “I’m on the other side. It’s cool, man, just being around a legend, just soaking up the game and seeing his point of view. You know, when you're in the backfield with a great quarterback, I think communication is key. And I think he’s the best communicator to have been in the huddle from Day One.”
NOTES: DE Carl Lawson (back) returned to practice after missing a few weeks. Saleh is optimistic Lawson will be ready for the opener. ... P Thomas Morstead was among the Jets' final cuts, but it's likely just a procedural move and he'll be brought back after the team places other players on IR. As a vested veteran, Morstead isn't subject to waivers. Same for FB Nick Bawden. ... RB Zonovan “Bam” Knight was waived after being the odd man out in a crowded backfield. ... “Hard Knocks” star WR Jerome Kapp, whose performance of Eminem’s freestyle in “8 Mile” went viral, was also among the Jets' players waived.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
Dennis Waszak Jr., The Associated Press