Mike Zimmer said Friday afternoon that running back Dalvin Cook “should be ready to go” for Sunday’s game in Green Bay after missing the team’s loss against Atlanta before the bye week because of a groin injury. It was interesting that Cook was then listed as questionable on an amended injury report after he initially was not given any type of designation.
Cook, who was injured in the third quarter of the Vikings’ Week 5 loss in Seattle, had been limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday before being a full participant on Friday. The Friday session is usually much lighter so the fact Cook wasn’t held back didn’t come as a surprise.
While Cook’s presence on the field gives the Vikings a better chance, it’s fair to wonder how much of a role, if any, he will play on Sunday? There is a case to be made that giving Cook another week of rest would be the wise move. There are some who would suggest Cook should be put on a “pitch count” but the issue is that if the coaching staff of a 1-5 team starts to use Cook will they stop?
There are two things that are true about Cook. 1) He’s the type of player who can help carry your offense and, thus, should get a heavy workload. 2) He’s injury prone and giving him that workload, when he’s already dealing with an injury, will only lead to more issues. Cook’s rookie season ended after four games because of a torn ACL. A hamstring injury cost him five games in 2018 and last season he missed two games, and parts of others, because of a chest issue.
Cook was leading the NFL in rushing this season when he went out — his 489 yards are still sixth in the league and his seven touchdowns are tied for second — and until he came up limping in Seattle I was all for using him as much as possible. But the injury changes that and so does the fact the Vikings are in the midst of what looks like a lost season.
Alexander Mattison isn’t as good as Cook, but does that really matter at this point? Getting him experience, can’t be considered a bad idea.
The Vikings now must do everything possible to protect Cook for the future. Considering how easy it is to re-injure a groin, giving him a steady workload on Sunday seems like a bad idea. Of course, the decision to hold Cook back likely will have to come from the athletic training staff and the decision-makers above Zimmer. (The Packers, by the way, have declared their star running back, Aaron Jones, as out for Sunday because of a calf injury.)
But this is one case — and definitely one season — in which the Vikings should do everything possible to be smart with key players who are part of the future. The fact that Cook agreed to a five-year, $63 million contract extension that will begin next year makes him a big part of the plan well beyond Sunday.
While Cook’s status is uncertain, what we do know is that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be in an excellent position to duplicate the monster Week 1 performance (32-of-44 for 364 yards with four touchdowns) he had in a 43-34 victory over the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings will be without cornerbacks Mike Hughes (neck) and Holton Hill (foot) and rookie Cameron Dantzler remains on the COVID-19 reserve list for the time being.
That means the Vikings’ corners could be first-round pick Jeff Gladney; Kris Boyd, who has been dealing with hamstring and back issues; fifth-round pick Harrison Hand; and Mark Fields, who was recently promoted from the practice squad. It’s unclear whether the recently claimed Chris Jones will be available but his lack of practice time with the Vikings makes it unlikely he would be asked to step in.
This also will be the Vikings’ first game since trading defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens. Ngakoue had a team-leading five sacks in six games.