Vikings retain Cook, but he won't play until legal issues are resolved

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 8, 2011 - 7:21 AM

The cornerback will be paid, but not participate in football activities.

In the middle of last week, Leslie Frazier promised a quick resolution from the Vikings in the ongoing saga of cornerback Chris Cook. The first-year head coach did not, however, guarantee instant closure or clarity.

And so it came to pass Monday that the Vikings announced Cook would remain part of their 53-man roster but would not be allowed to "participate in our football activities" for the foreseeable future.

"We have met with Chris and spoken with his agent," the team's official statement read, "and have agreed that currently, Chris should focus on his off-the-field matters."

In other words, the game of limbo will continue -- only with Cook drawing a paycheck.

Cook was arrested Oct. 22 on domestic assault charges following an argument with his girlfriend. The arrest report alleged that Cook struck and twice strangled his girlfriend during the incident at his Eden Prairie home. He was formally charged with a felony count of domestic assault a few days later and could face an extended stay in prison if convicted.

Still, the legal process will take significant time to unfold. So for now, the Vikings have opted to straddle the fence with their reprimand.

In electing to lift Cook's suspension, they have agreed to pay the second-year cornerback for the remainder of 2011. Cook is due a base salary of $405,000 this season. Yet following Monday's workout, Frazier said he did not anticipate Cook returning to Winter Park anytime soon with the team planning to play the rest of the season without him.

"It's hard to say that we're going to see him again, considering what he's facing," Frazier said.

From a business standpoint, even with its controversial undertones, the Vikings' decision to keep Cook on the team but with his long-term status open-ended makes sense. Competitively, given the team's obvious secondary weaknesses, Cook has been identified as a talent to potentially build around. And before his arrest, he had impressed the coaching staff with his rapid improvement and confidence.

Last week, Frazier said in a radio interview that Cook "was on the verge of being our No. 1 corner."

But Frazier also has continually made it clear he takes the domestic assault charges very seriously and will not rush to get Cook back.

"We really think it's best for him to focus on the legal matters and not be a part of what we're doing right now," Frazier said. "And that's what he believes as well, along with his agent -- that he needs to really focus on his case, which is a very serious matter."

Cook has missed the past two games and was officially suspended without pay Oct. 25. But that financial punishment lasted only one game. Now, the troubled 24-year-old will continue to collect his salary while being asked to concentrate exclusively on taking care of his legal issues.

Asked what the best-case scenario for Cook in the big picture would be, Frazier took a deep breath.

"You hope for the best," he said. "Whatever that is, you hope for the best. The best-case scenario: hopefully the allegations aren't true. Hopefully he gets things turned around."

The first-year head coach, however, stopped well short of projecting a promising reunion between Cook and the Vikings.

Said Frazier: "It's so tough to say today as we stand here in November, considering the situation and not knowing how it's going to play out. It's hard to look into the future."

In addition to the Vikings' response to Cook's legal issues, the NFL will likely have its say down the road as well. The league continues to review Cook's case and will monitor the legal developments. An NFL-mandated suspension could become part of the equation at some point.

Cook's next court date is Nov. 22.

Yet even with Monday's news, full closure remains a long way off.

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