MANKATO, Minn. -- The coolness of Wednesday's morning walkthrough at Minnesota State University, hosting its final Vikings training camp before Mike Zimmer's squad embraces new facilities in 2018, evaporated rather quickly once the pads came out.
On an 80-degree day with blaring sunshine, the NFC North contenders took another step closer to the 2017 season, Zimmer's fourth in town, as their big-name second-rounderin the backfield.
Cook sure looks like the real deal
Walkthrough lineups had Cook, Minnesota's second-round pick out of Florida State, commanding all but a few looks as the team's starting back, and that trend continued later, when he was regularly positioned behind Bradford in full pads. In between , Jerick McKinnon acknowledged everybody has "seen what (Cook) can do" with the ball on his hands.
But all the good talk about the rookie isn't even as impressive as Cook himself. The first-year back passes the eye test with flying colors. Every ounce of his listed 5-foot-11, 213-pound frame is rock solid, and he moves like someone a whole lot lighter. There's a lot to be proven yet, of course, but Cook at least gives the impression that Minnesota isn't even fretting Latavius Murray's absence.
Martha Bradford, Sam's No. 1 fan
The highlight of the practice for this particular writer? On any other day, it would've been Cook. (And Wednesday was the day for him.) But an unexpected conversation with Sam Bradford's mother topped it all.
As Bradford walked off the field in the morning, he had someone by his side, and when fans tried swarming him for autographs, he revealed that someone to be his mother, Martha.
"My mom came here all the way from Oklahoma," he said, quieting the crowd and dispersing the oncoming herd.
While Bradford was out taking snaps and dumping passes to Cook later, I stumbled upon his special guest. There, for a good while, we observed practice together, Mrs. Bradford eyeing her son and, occasionally, zooming in for a picture on her iPhone as a great many did beside her. She was a face in a crowd of fans, not separated by any VIP ropes, and she insisted she wasn't the type to put herself in the spotlight.
Long after she and a friend departed for the bleachers, however, I can't help but reflect on her candor.
- Sam, she noted, is her only son, and she's yet to miss a game of his alongside husband, Kent. It's no wonder, then, she dedicated a trip to Mankato, a mere 700 or so miles from home, just to watch the Vikings' signal-caller.
- The sudden transition from St. Louis to Philadelphia and then to Minnesota from 2013-16 was stark for her son. Anyone could've guessed that, but the journey from college ball in Oklahoma, where she admitted he "hardly got hit," to a porous Rams team and a hard-nosed Eagles fan base proved to be a roller coaster.
- Now, with the Vikings, Sam is comfortable, even if his arrival was prompted by a knee injury to Teddy Bridgewater, who Martha said she resonates with thanks to her own son's history of rehabilitation. Bradford, his mother says, likes what he sees from Michael Floyd, Minnesota's redemption project at wide receiver, and he's fitting in nicely out here in the Midwest.
Big-bodied Floyd has potential for big role
Speaking of Floyd, the impression from practice sidelines is that his early season suspension has Bradford a little bummed. And that's a good thing, considering No. 8 apparently wants the ex-Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots target on the field.
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen make for some top-notch inside options for Bradford, but Floyd moved around well Wednesday. It would be a surprise if he doesn't progress toward a prominent role in the season.
Bridgewater, Murray on road to recovery together
Bridgewater and Murray, the two Vikings designated to the physically unable to perform list, were secluded from the rest of the team during afternoon work, but they weren't shy about moving around.
The latter stands to gain more from getting back to practice after his ankle surgery, and he looked rather nimble taking hand-offs from Bridgewater, albeit against not a shred of defense. The quarterback didn't look too hesitant on his own legs, either, although his own timetable for recovery remains a question mark.