As Cook verdict nears, team still in 'wait-and-see' mode

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 15, 2012 - 5:47 AM

Since putting Cook on what amounts to a paid leave of absence last November, the Vikings have been non-committal as to how they'll respond once the defensive back's legal situation is resolved.

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Vikings cornerback Chris Cook is standing trial for domestic assault and third-degree assault, both felonies, following a fight with his girlfriend last fall at his Eden Prairie home.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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With holes to plug all over the secondary, the Vikings continue anxiously awaiting a verdict in Chris Cook's domestic assault case. Cook's trial began March 5 and lengthy closing arguments were delivered Wednesday at the Hennepin County Government Center. Jurors went into deliberation shortly after. But having not arrived at a verdict by late afternoon, the jury adjourned and will continue deliberating Thursday.

Cook, a cornerback whom the Vikings drafted with their top pick in 2010, faces one charge of domestic assault by strangulation and another count of domestic assault in the third degree. Both are felony charges stemming from an Oct. 22 incident at his Eden Prairie home where an argument with Chantel Baker, his girlfriend at the time, turned violent.

Since putting Cook on what amounts to a paid leave of absence last November, the Vikings have been non-committal as to how they'll respond once the defensive back's legal situation is resolved. General Manager Rick Spielman remained reserved Wednesday.

"We're just waiting and letting the legal process take its course," Spielman said.

Kevin Warren, the Vikings' vice president of legal affairs, and Les Pico, also part of the team's legal department, were in attendance during proceedings Wednesday. Pico testified earlier in the trial as a character witness for Cook.

The Vikings have stood firm with the "wait-and-see" approach on the 25-year-old Cook, understanding that young players with his combination of size, speed and strength aren't easy to find. On top of that, their depth chart in the defensive backfield needs major reinforcement.

Still, it's hard to guess just how the organization will ultimately respond given the nature of Cook's alleged crime.

Regardless of the verdict, Cook could face stern discipline from the NFL. The league's personal conduct policy states clearly that a conviction isn't necessary for punishment to be administered to a player who doesn't behave responsibly in a manner that "promotes the values upon which the league is based."

Now what?

With two days of free agency in the books, linebacker Erin Henderson remains on the open market. Henderson was figured to be a player the Vikings wanted to retain this offseason. But as of yet, there's been no new deal. Henderson's older brother, E.J., is also a free agent and seems more likely to move on after spending nine seasons with the Vikings.

Spielman asserted he was open to bringing both Hendersons back but also is content to let them test the free agent market.

"We do have an interest in Erin and E.J. and a couple other guys we're keeping tabs on," the Vikings GM said. "But sometimes they have to go out in the market to establish what their value is."

By a nose

Defensive tackle Letroy Guion, signed to a new three-year deal Tuesday, likely will enter training camp this summer with an opportunity to compete for the starting nose tackle spot. Spielman called Guion "an extremely talented athlete" with "huge, huge upside" and believes he can flourish quickly if he can settle in and work exclusively at nose tackle after spending time at both tackle spots in 2011.

Moving on

The two guards the Vikings cut loose last weekend might be eyeing reunions of sorts as they search for new NFL homes. Anthony Herrera took a visit to Chicago on Wednesday, where former Vikings coach Mike Tice is the Bears' new offensive coordinator. Tice helped bring Herrera to the Twin Cities in 2004 as an undrafted free agent.

Steve Hutchinson, meanwhile, was back in Seattle for a visit Wednesday. Before his six-season run with the Vikings, Hutchinson spent the first five years of his career with the Seahawks.

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