EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Just days after Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was talking about the growth shown by young cornerback Chris Cook this season, Cook's season is likely over.
Cook broke his right arm during Thursday night's 36-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Frazier said Cook will miss seven to eight weeks. Frazier said the team would put him on injured reserve with the right to recall him later in the season, but with the season halfway over, Cook's only chances of returning would be if Minnesota (5-3) made the playoffs.
"He's going to have surgery, so I'll know for sure once they go in, but they're estimating about seven to eight weeks," Frazier said, adding the playoffs would be Cook's only chance at a return. "That would be the only way. We've only got eight weeks left."
Cook, the team's first pick in the 2010 draft at No. 34 overall, suffered the broken arm while trying to tackle Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin on the third play of the second half, diving at Martin, who was eventually brought down by safety Jamarca Sanford on a 1-yard loss. Cook went to the bench holding his right wrist. On the next play, Martin broke free for a 64-yard touchdown on a screen pass, essentially putting the game out of reach for the Vikings.
Frazier said after the game that Cook had broken his wrist, but after further evaluation, the break was in Cook's arm. He's scheduled to have surgery and Frazier said the team will try to take advantage of the league's new rule in which you can put a player on the injured reserve list with a designation to return, a one-time use by each team.
"Yeah, more than likely where we can bring him back at some point," Frazier said. "That's what we'd like to be able to do towards the end of the season."
Cook, the team's biggest (6-foot-2) and perhaps best cover corner, was replaced in nickel packages by A.J. Jefferson, who Minnesota acquired in a trade from the Arizona Cardinals before the season-opener. Rookie Josh Robinson, selected in the third round, has been the primary nickel back and is expected to fill Cook's role as a starter. Frazier said the team could look at signing another cornerback and added that Brandon Burton, who has been a healthy inactive five of the past seven games, could help as well.
"We may bring someone in tomorrow to work out," Frazier said. "I know Rick and George are scouring the wire and looking at names they have on a list. We're going to talk about it this afternoon and determine when we'll bring a guy in and take a look at him."
Jefferson's role will certainly increase as the main nickel back now.
"We know injuries occur," Frazier said. "So we've been bringing him along and we've been putting him in ball games in nickel situations, dime situations. So he'll have to be ready now. We have an extra day or so to help him. But he'll have to play and probably play a lot."
The past few seasons, the Vikings have been decimated by injuries in the secondary, but they felt they had improved their depth this season with the return of Cook, who missed the final 10 games last year while dealing with a legal issue, the trade for Jefferson and drafting Robinson and safety Harrison Smith.
Safety Mistral Raymond, who had begun the year as a starter, has missed the past five games with an ankle injury, but he's expected to return for the next game on Nov. 4 at Seattle.
Meanwhile, Cook has now had his first three NFL seasons cut short. He only played six games in his rookie season in 2010 while dealing with damage to both of his knees at different points. He returned for 2011, but was told to stay away from the team for the final nine games because of an altercation with his girlfriend led to assault charges. He was acquitted of the charges and returned this year focused on putting his troubled past behind him.
"Oh, he's distraught," Frazier said. "It's tough. It's tough."
Cook played a key role in Minnesota's defensive resurgence at the start of the season, being the tough, physical cover corner the team believed it was drafting in the second round in 2010. Cook was largely responsible for limiting Detroit's All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson to five catches and 54 yards in a Vikings' road win. Last Sunday, Cook drew the assignment of covering Arizona's Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald, jamming Fitzgerald at the line of scrimmage and holding him to four catches for 29 yards.
On Thursday, Cook was most often matched up with Tampa Bay's big receiver Vincent Jackson, who was coming off a franchise record 216 yards receiving a week earlier, and Jackson ended up with two catches for 40 yards.
Cook has 30 tackles, a sack and 11 pass deflections this season.
"I thought he was really coming along and he had a good game yesterday in the time that he was out there," Frazier said. "He was playing well for us, so it's unfortunate."
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