Cook can provide big plays, leadership when ankle heals

September 04, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Tommy Cook didn't want to miss Kentucky's opening game. However, he also didn't want to take a chance on missing four games at midseason.

"I just thought it might be better to get it fixed right away instead of waiting until the middle of the season and chancing missing four games or so," said Cook. "Hopefully, I'll miss no more than two games and can get back on there helping the team."

Cook, a junior receiver, needed surgery last month to remove a bone spur on his ankle. That's not exactly the start he envisioned to this season.

After Derek Abney, he was Kentucky's top returning receiver. With running back Artose Pinner and receiver Aaron Boone graduated, Cook knew the Wildcats needed another big-play producer on offense. He thought that would be him.


Then the pain started.

"A bone spur doesn't just pop up," Cook said. "I've had it for a while. I aggravated the ankle in training camp. It kept bothering me. I tried to play on it. I got it taped, but it just wasn't working. I couldn't do the things I wanted."

It was not the same ankle that he had broken during his Texas high school career. However, he had severely sprained the same ankle in his senior year and suspects that's when the bone spur started.

"I've always had a little pain, but nothing like this," Cook said.

He started running this week

He started running this week in hopes of possibly playing Saturday against Murray State. He's much more likely to return Sept. 13 when the Wildcats visit Alabama in their Southeastern Conference opener.

While he's been idle, he has stayed busy, and not just with his daily five hours of rehabilitation work.

"We have a lot of young guys with skills, and I've been trying to help them as much as possible," Cook said.

Yet he'll help a lot more when he's on the field. Not only is he a dependable receiver, he's also a tenacious blocker. He was UK's best player at covering punts in 2002. He was also slated to be the holder for extra points and field goals this season.

"I hope they have missed my versatility," Cook said. "But I think one of the big things I could provide is senior leadership. We have a young team. Little things such as going to the team hotel the night before a game and making sure everyone is getting things done right is something I can provide.

"You can only do so much from the sidelines when you are not playing. My knowledge on the field about getting things done right can help the young guys."

Disappointed that Kentucky's offense was not smoother

Even though he didn't play, Cook was disappointed that Kentucky's offense was not smoother in the 40-24 loss to Louisville. He didn't expect the Cats to have as many assignment miscues as they did.

"From us being comfortable, I thought we might have some rough spots," Cook said. "Athletically, we have some great athletes out there. But we had so many new players in key spots that it might have made it difficult to execute. You are going to have growing pains. That's part of it. I just hope all the young guys learned something from the game and that we can fill Artose's and Aaron's shoes."

The Louisville game has shown what kind of season the Cats would have the last two years. In 2001 UK lost and finished 2-9. Last year the Cats won and had a 7-5 season.

"We just have to circle the wagons as a team," Cook said. "The loss hurts, but it is over. We have 11 games left.

"The young guys are watching how us older players handle this and how we prepare for the rest of the season. They'll see that we want to get back to work and win. As a veteran, you have to show life after a big loss. We can't let one game ruin our season."

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