By Jim Rueda
---- — MANKATO — Fourth-year defensive back Chris Cook has just one major goal for the 2013 season: To stay on the football field.
The cornerback out of Virgina has missed a lot of games his first three years and that's a trend he'd like to see come to an end.
As a rookie in 2010, he was inactive for four of the first five games of the year, then played in five straight games before a season-ending injury sidelined him. A year later, he played in the first six games before getting suspended. He was inactive for the final nine games of the season.
Last year he started a career-high 10 regular-season games and one wild card playoff game. He suffered a broken arm against Tampa Bay in late October but returned to the lineup against Houston just before Christmas. Despite his extended absence he led the team in passes defensed with 14.
"The whole deal with Chris is staying healthy," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "When he's on the field we see him get better and better. It's just keeping him on the field."
Cook usually plays right-side corner and says he's approaching training camp with the right frame of mind.
"I'm a lot more focused this year; this is all business for me," he said. "We're having fun in camp and I'm just looking forward to the season.
"Now that I've been here awhile and I know the playbook, it's more a matter of me cleaning up my techniques. When you see me doing extra stuff before practice or after practice, that's what I'm working on; the different techniques in certain coverages that we have."
The two major techniques Cook is concentrating on are footwork and hand placement. Footwork is vital to the position and hand placement is also important, particuarly when the corner is up in press coverage.
Frazier thought Cook might be on his way to a breakout season in 2012 but the arm injury halted a promising start.
"He had a spell where he was really playing well for us," Frazier said. "And then he got banged up.
"But then he came back and his finish was good. He was back for the Texas ballgame and we matched him up against Andre Johnson and he did a good job on him."
So, if the 6-foot-2, 200-pound corner stays healthy this season, how good can he be? Cook says he has no answer.
"That's a good question but I don't know," he said. "I never put limitations on myself. I just have to go out and play to the best of my ability."