Vikings’ Dalvin Cook, still not at full strength, runs for season-high 140 yards

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Vikings running back Dalvin Cook said he was “tired” after Sunday’s game at Carolina. He said his ankle wasn’t fully healthy but he vowed that when the team plays next in two weeks he’ll be “ready to full-go.”

Oh, and in Minnesota’s 34-28 overtime win over the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium, he rushed for a season-high 140 yards on 29 carries

“He’s a tremendous player, and he showed it,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said.

Cook missed two of the past three games with a sprained right ankle. He was first hurt Sept. 19 at Arizona and sat out Sept. 26 against Seattle. He returned Oct. 3 against Cleveland but was ineffective and tweaked his ankle. So he sat out last week’s game against Detroit.

Cook, though, was determined to make it back for Sunday’s game.

“I worked my tail off,” he said. “(Running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu was) on my tail during practice. And me, I’m just making sure I’m sharp on a lot of stuff, making sure I’m conditioned. Making sure I’m ready for moments like this so I can touch the football many times.”

Wide receiver K.J. Osborn called it “huge” to have Cook back. Having a threat like Cook available helped open up the passing game, and Cousins threw for 373 yards, including the winning 27-yard touchdown pass to Osborn in overtime.

Cook said he wasn’t quite as sharp as he normally is. He did score on a 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter but he was caught from behind on a 16-yard run in overtime, and wondered if he might have scored had he been at full strength.

“Just still getting a feel for a lot of stuff,” he said. “Still getting my feet back under me. Some of the runs I feel like I could have slipped out of them. That’s just the player I am. I hold myself to a high standard. I could definitely be better.”

Asked about Cook running for 140 yards when he wasn’t at full strength, Cousins said, “I’m really proud of Dalvin.”

When Cook returned to play against the Browns, the plan was to limit his carries. He had nine in that game for 34 yards while backup Alexander Mattison had 10 attempts for 20 yards.

There was no such plan Sunday even though Mattison produced games of 112 and 113 yards when Cook was out. The Vikings were playing a pivotal game and they now have a bye and don’t play again until Oct. 31 against Dallas at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I come back and take (29) carries,” he said. “But I was prepared. I was working my tail off in the training room, just making sure my body is in shape, mentally and physically. So I told Coach, I was like, ‘I’m ready. Give me the ball. You don’t need to hold back, just give me the ball.’ ”

When the Vikings play next, Cook vows to be even better.

“I’m not (fully back), but we’ve got two weeks to do whatever we’re about to do, so next time you see me, I’ll be ready to full-go,” he said.

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