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Jets’ Dalvin Cook feels a part of team after first practice

The month of August has been a whirlwind for Dalvin Cook.

Not only did he celebrate his 28th birthday, but he signed with the Jets on Aug. 15.

More significant than that, Cook became a first-time father as he flew back down to his home state of Florida shortly after signing his one-year contract with the Jets worth up to $8.6 million.

“Now I feel like I’m part of the Jets now, now I feel like I’m part of the team,” Cook said on Wednesday. “I came in for a few days and I had to go back home and had to spend some time with the birth and I came back and I was on the side just trying to get back from just sitting in the hospital and it was just a lot going on.

“Now I get to dig deep into the playbook and get familiar with the guys in the huddle and just have fun with the guys I got in this locker room. I’m ready to go.”

Cook returned to the Jets last week but did not practice until Tuesday when he told reporters he participated in every drill and period. Considering he hasn’t participated in any team activities since the Vikings released him on May 9, this is significant progress for Cook.

Cook had offseason shoulder surgery in February, but the injury did not limit him last season. Cook played in 17 games for the first time in his career as he rushed for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns on his way to being named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance. However, Cook’s yards per carry last year (4.4) was the lowest of his career.

Cook also has a history of shoulder issues dating to his college years at Florida State. He previously had an operation to repair a reported broken shoulder in 2019 that caused him to miss that season’s final two games. He also missed four games due to an injured shoulder during the 2021 season.

Despite his history with shoulder injuries, Jets coach Robert Saleh says he has no concerns about ramping Cook up two weeks before the start of the regular season against the Bills on Sept. 11.

“It’s different when you’re dealing with an upper body, so we feel really confident about him and his ability to just hit the ground running,” Saleh said. “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.

“We just have to be smart with him, so obviously it’s good we have two- it’s great we have Michael Carter also, three really good backs that we feel very comfortable with. Izzy [Israel Abanikanda] getting back and healthy- we’re surprised, it’s shocking how quickly he’s come back from his injury, so we feel really good about the backfield.”

Cook will join a Jets roster that already has a talented running back in Breece Hall, who was electric during his seven games as a rookie as he rushed for 463 yards and four touchdowns. But an ACL tear prematurely ended his 2022 season.

Just like Cook, Hall recently began practicing with the Jets as he was on the physically unable to perform [PUP] list at the start of training camp. Both Cook and Hall would be lead running backs for most of the teams in the NFL, but they will have to share the load this season.

“I know he’s worked his tail off,” Saleh said about Hall. “He’s been here every single day. For him to be where he is like I said, we’ve never been worried about his availability, we just have to be smart.

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“The excitement is “Well, let’s just throw him out there,” but we need to be smart, we need to be diligent, and I think in his mind, he can probably feel like he can take 30 touches, but we just have to be smart with him, make sure we’re constantly communicating with him, and just being diligent.”

Cook has accomplished a lot during his seven seasons in the league. But he is still looking for some hardware, as he has yet to win a Super Bowl during his career.

When he was with the Vikings last year, they were the No. 3 seed in the NFC. But Minnesota was upset by the Giants at home in the wild-card round.

Cook could have decided to go to a team where he was the focal point and a bellcow running back. However, he decided to come to a Jets team with sky-high expectations after the addition of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Along with Rodgers, Cook knows the Jets return a defense that finished fourth in the league in points and yards allowed a season ago. Those facts appealed to him during the free agency process.

“We played these guys last year and I faced the defense and I feel like we got one of the best in the league,” Cook said. “I feel like when you have a great defense, you have the opportunity on offense to go do something special.

“If you look around at the guys that we got here, we feel like we can go do something special. The defense is going to give us opportunities, we just gotta go capitalize on it.”

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