Robert Saleh praises Jets’ selfless running backs who just ‘want to win’

Then-Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) looks on before the game against the Indianapolis Colts. / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the offseason addition that ensured the Jets’ season opener against the Buffalo Bills would get the prime-time treatment on Monday Night Football. But the late addition of running back Dalvin Cook is something that has head coach Robert Saleh “really excited.”

“Glad we got him,” Saleh said of Cook on Saturday. “He is a special person, he’s got a special mindset to him and obviously we know about the football player.”

But while Gang Green looked like a near-lock to land the running back after he was released by the Minnesota Vikings on the eve of training camp, Saleh had his doubts that Cook would sign with the team after he visited Florham Park in August.

“When he was on that first visit and we had a chance to meet with him, I feel like we put on a worst-case scenario,” Saleh said. “When he left, I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to want to play here. And he still wanted to be here. It was laid out exactly and I was like, ‘Why would he want to be here the way we explained it?’ But he was all-in and it gives us faith that he’s all-in on this process.

“He’s ready to do anything we need him to do in football games — whether it is 25 carries, whether it’s one carry, whatever it is, he is ready to roll.”

Saleh added: “You ask [Cook], and I feel like it’s sincere, like how many touches you want? ‘Whatever we need to do to win the game.’”

And that worst-case scenario he described for Cook was based on the strength of the running back room that was already in New York before he signed.

“That he is just standing on the sideline, never seeing the field, because Breece [Hall] is so hot or Michael [Carter] is hot or the pass game is hot and we are rolling with the hot hand, but not saying that will happen, it’s just worst case scenario,” the head coach said. “But to [Cook’s] credit, he is like ‘Coach, I just want win,’ so when he left and their team still showed interest, I was like ‘Absolutely bring him in, he is only going to help us.’

“Since he has walked in here, I mean his speed burst, smarts, his tutelage, his experience bringing to that running back room, he has been fantastic.”

Saleh added with all the team’s running backs from second-year man Hall to third-year man Carter and rookie Israel Abanikanda there seems to be little ego ahead of Week 1. And while two is company, but three a crowd, the head coach said he likes where the mindset of the entire group is at right now.

“We have a really cool group of guys that are very selfless, they just love this game, and they want to win, and I think they are enjoying this whole thing so far,” he said.

Of course, the balance could change from the early part of the season as Hall is working his way back from a torn ACL sustained last October as the Jets give him time to work his way back into the fold.

“We have a plan. I’m not going to talk about it here, but there’s going to be a constant communication because what the plan is can be more, can be less, but we have an idea of what we want to get done,” Saleh said. “[Hall] has an idea of what he would like to accomplish, but at the same time communication, and constantly checking in to see where he is at, both physically and mentally is going to be key.

Hall was a full participant in Saturday’s practice, as were offensive tackles, Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton

On Becton, who is himself coming back from an extended injury absence, Saleh said he looks forward to seeing how the tackle responds to playing in a game that matters.

“He has been good, he’s been working and I am excited for him, he’s going to have some mistakes, it is what it is. He hasn’t played football in two years, but he has worked hard to get to this point,” the head coach said.

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