Vikings RB Dalvin Cook not ruling himself out against Packers

Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates a first down against the Oakland Raiders during the third quarter of the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Minneapolis. ((Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images))

The odds aren’t in his favor for suiting up Monday night, but Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook didn’t completely rule himself out as the team began preparations for the Green Bay Packers on Thursday.

According to an ESPN report, Cook is unlikely to play Monday night after suffering a shoulder injury early in the third quarter of Sunday’s 39-10 win over the Chargers in L.A.

It was the second straight game Cook suffered an injury in the second half, and did not return. He had to be helped off the field by two trainers, with his left arm slumping, before heading to the medical tent. He did not go to the locker room after being evaluated on the sideline, but didn’t play another down in the game and was seen smiling and talking with teammates during the second half.

Cook on Thursday acknowledged he injured his shoulder. He said he’s going to keep his preparations as normal as possible, while also spending every free second he has with team trainers.

“I’m going to go through my normal routine of getting ready for Monday night and we’re going to see how it goes. In the training room every day, starting my mornings early every day and just grinding. Trying to get my shoulder right so I can be available when my team needs me,” Cook said.

Cook’s status for the final two regular season games could also hinge on the Vikings’ status for the NFC Playoffs. If the San Francisco 49ers beat the L.A. Rams Saturday night, the Vikings clinch a playoff spot regardless of what transpires Monday night against the Packers.

Vikings’ coach Mike Zimmer denied Thursday they would rest Cook if they clinch a playoff spot before facing the Packers on Monday Night Football, when asked if he had an update on his star running back.

“Yeah I have an update, he seems to be doing good,” Zimmer said.

Both Cook and Alexander Mattison were not among the participants at practice Thursday, which Zimmer termed to be low-key in the first preparations for the Packers. Cook stretched, then stood and watched while his offensive teammates went through individual drills during the portion of practice open to the media. Mattison, who missed the first game of his rookie season Sunday with an ankle injury, spent time off to the side doing rehab work.

If Cook and Mattison can’t play, No. 3 running back Mike Boone would likely get the start, and Ameer Abdullah would also get some work. Boone had 13 carries for 56 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Chargers after Cook went out injured. Abdullah has 13 carries for 66 yards on the season.

“We’ve got some guys that can play. They’ve had spurts and they’ve had moments, but if they’re called to step up, I feel like we have 100 percent confidence in them to do their job,” wide receiver Stefon Diggs said.

It’s been a frustrating four games for Cook after being one of the top running backs in the NFL through the first half of the season. In the first seven weeks, Cook had five 100-yard games. He also had nine rushing touchdowns through eight games.

He has not had a 100-yard game since the Vikings beat the Lions in Detroit, and in three of his past four games, he has run for less than 30 yards. He’s had to leave three straight games in the second half due to injury, and it all started in Seattle with a separate injury to his chest.

He’s not letting the circumstances frustrate him, despite playing a total of just 15 games combined in his first two seasons due to injury. He tore his ACL in his rookie year, then dealt with a hamstring injury last season.

“It’s part of the game, it’s football. This ain’t the end of the world, y’all know that right?” Cook said. “We still playing football, we winning, we won Sunday. I’ll be alright.”

The other issue for the Vikings’ offensively without Cook is he's their greatest weapon in the screen pass game. Cook is Minnesota’s second leading receiver with 53 catches for 519 yards.

Even if they’re without Cook, the Vikings are confident they can finish the season strong. They were without star receiver Adam Thielen for four straight games, and the majority of the last six, before he made three catches for 27 yards against the Chargers. The Vikings were 4-2 over that stretch.

They’ll have to find other ways to move the ball if Cook can’t play.

“It certainly helps when you feel you can win a variety of ways. I think getting Adam back reminded me that when we didn’t have Adam, we were still able to move the football and win football games. It reminds you that there are other ways to win,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said.

Cook played through pain after his initial injury at Seattle. Now he’s battling two injuries, and said Thursday it’s about getting healthy. It’s what might lead the Vikings to sit him until they absolutely need him the NFC Playoffs.

“It’s just about getting healthy. Pain and all that comes with the game. You can bare so much. You can do so much, but it’s all about being healthy and I think that’s when I’m at my best for the team,” Cook said.

It goes without saying, but the Vikings need Cook healthy if they have any chance to make a playoff run. The Vikings can still win the NFC North Division and earn a home playoff game by winning their final two games, and the Lions beating the Packers at Ford Field in the regular season finale.