Vikings' Dalvin Cook getting back to work preparing for big 2021 season

Dalvin Cook missed just one game due to injury this season, finishing second in the NFL with 1,557 yards rushing. Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire

MINNEAPOLIS -- A month removed from his final game of the 2020 season, Dalvin Cook isn't interested in having too much down time. Instead, the Minnesota Vikings running back is already forging ahead physically for next year.

"I kind of told myself that I was going to take two or three weeks off, and I couldn't help myself," Cook said. "I've been in the gym every now and then. I'm sitting down next week and getting a plan with my trainer of what I want to attack this offseason, what I want to get better at and those things, but coming out of this season, it was one of my healthier years, and at the end of the year, my body is clean."

Cook, 25, finished second in the NFL with 1,557 yards rushing and 17 total touchdowns. He played 14 games, matching his career high set last year. He missed a Week 6 game against the Falcons because of a groin injury and the final game of the season due to the death of his father, James.

"It's been a tough time, like you said, but I always think back to how things are supposed to be and how situations like this build character," Cook said. "It just shows who a man really is. My dad lived a great life, so I can continue to live that legacy and carry his name and do all of those things and continue to work hard. Things have been tough, but it gets better. That's why I've got my family and everybody that's around me, helping me get through the tough time."

The sustainability of his workload -- Cook had 356 touches last season -- was debated regularly, but he isn't concerned about how it will affect him in 2021.

"Like I said in the past [about] the touches and everything, once I'm feeling it, it's like the touches don't really matter," Cook said. "Coming out of that type of year, you build your body up extra hard, you hit the weight room a little harder, and you just do things a little harder. I think the injuries or whatever, that comes with the game. I'm going to turn it loose, and I'm going to have fun with it.

"Next year is going to be an opportunity for me to explode again, and I'm going to take full advantage of the opportunity by working my tail off this offseason so I can be ready for 16, 17 games -- however many games I've gotta go. I'm going to be ready to go, and it should be a fun year for the Vikings."

Alexander Mattison ran for 95 yards and a touchdown in place of Cook in Minnesota's 37-35 win over Detroit on Jan. 3. Having a viable option behind Cook has long been the goal for this offense to rush at the rate it had all year (eighth in attempts per game) while still being able to spell Cook.

"I think it's important that we monitor Dalvin's workload as we go forward," Zimmer said earlier this month. "But like I said before, at the end of the ballgame, we need our best players in the game. Dalvin is not only one of our best players, but one of the best players in the NFL."