Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
That's the one word that keeps surfacing whenever anyone reviews the details of Chris Cook's weekend arrest following an incident that now has the Vikings cornerback facing felony domestic assault charges. There's no way around it. The mental image of Cook's girlfriend being found by police bloodied and crying with hemorrhaging in one eye has proven upsetting to everyone, including the Vikings.
Late Tuesday night, the team announced through a statement that it was suspending Cook without pay. On Wednesday, head coach Leslie Frazier did his best to address his feelings on the Cook situation.
"When we heard the news on Saturday, like all of us, you’re in shock," Frazier said. "I mean we’re getting ready to play a huge game for us. At home. Playing Green Bay, an NFC North rival. All those things. So that news took all of us aback."
Frazier said he has had direct contact with Cook on Tuesday but prefers to "keep that conversation private." The statement the Vikings released Tuesday night labeled Cook's saga as "very disturbing and disappointing. At this time, he is suspended without pay from the team while we continue to gather information regarding the situation."
Added Frazier on Wednesday: "That really speaks to where our organization is and how disappointed we are by the events and how disturbed we are with the events as well. The fact that he will be suspended from our team really lets you know how concerned we are about what had happened. As we continue to get more information, we'll monitor the situation."
THOUGHTS ON BERRIAN
Frazier also took a moment Wednesday to briefly address the team's move to waive Bernard Berrian.
"Every decision is made on what is best for our team," Frazier said. "It had nothing to do with it being personal or anything like that. It's what's best for our team."
Berrian's seven catches for 91 yards this season had not given him much value to an offense that needs reviving. So now rookie Stephen Burton will get a chance, promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday afternoon.
As for Berrian, the veteran receiver told Frazier during a heart-to-heart meeting on Monday that he wanted to stay with the Vikings and be a part of the effort to rebuild going forward.
Frazier couldn't take that vow at face value, however.
"Bernard expressed to me he really wanted to be a part of our team and help our team to be successful," Frazier said. "But for what we’re trying to do and where we are, it’s just so important that every guy tries to adhere to the way we want to get it done. It’s one thing to say what I’m going to do. It’s another thing to do those things. And for us, we’re trying to build something for the long term, not the short term. So you’ve got to make decisions based on the bigger picture.”
Do you want the good news or the bad news? Of the latter, there's plenty.
For one, it's Oct. 26 and the Vikings have only one victory. For another, the team conceded Tuesday that Bernard Berrian was a sunk cost and abruptly waived the veteran receiver, further diluting the depth at a position of major need.
And then there's the whole Chris Cook domestic assault saga, with details so ugly and disturbing that the franchise's reputation won't be able to avoid taking a big hit.
But look, we're not here to spend all our time piling on. And on Tuesday afternoon there was a healthy dose of perspective at the University of Minnesota's Amplatz Children's Hospital where a horde of Vikings players used their off day to lift the spirits of sick kids and their families. Left tackle Steve Hutchinson hosted his annual Halloween party at the hospital.
Linebacker Erin Henderson, meanwhile, visited young patients, including those with sickle cell disease (SCD). Henderson recently launched “Foundation 50” to raise awareness and funds to support research programs and to ultimately find a cure for SCD.
Other Vikings in attendance Tuesday included Chad Greenway, Charlie Johnson, Everson Griffen, DeMarcus Love, Tyrone McKenzie and John Sullivan.
"You see these kids and you just really hope you can bring them some normalcy, even if it's just for a short period of time," Hutchinson said. "A lot of these kids are stuck in their hospital room for months, sometimes years on end and they don't get the opportunity to get out much. And it's not only the kids. A lot of these families are from out of town and are pulled away from their lives and families. You hope you can lift their spirits."
Hutchinson said his responsibilities as a father have given him a greater appreciation for events like Tuesday's.
"It's a very small sacrifice for myself and my teammates to come down here for a few hours and do what we can do to help. Something like this always provides that dose of perspective. We live in our own isolated world sometimes. We're always down at the [Vikings] facility and talking football, football, football. Especially when things aren't going that great like this season, you can get frustrated. Then you come here and you get a reminder of what life's all about."
Henderson also expressed his gratification in having an ability to lend a hand.
"Naturally, being a father myself, you do look at things a little differently," he said. "You can only hope and pray your kids stay in good health. But for those not as fortunate, you hope you can be giving of your time and your support to help in some small way."
Bernard Berrian's time in Minnesota ended Tuesday. He was waived by the franchise and replaced on the active roster by rookie Stephen Burton.
The Vikings will be on the hook to pay Berrian approximately $1.1 million, the remainder of his salary for this season, unless another team claims him off waivers.
Berrian had only seven catches for 91 yards this season and was declared inactive for the Vikings' games against Arizona and Green Bay. On his way out of town, he posted a thankful statement on his website.
“I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Minnesota Vikings organization for the past three-and-a-half years,” Berrian said. “I can’t say enough about my teammates and the experience I have had here in Minnesota. I view this as an opportunity to grow as a player and to bring strengths to a new organization. I am eager to begin the next stage in my career and excited about the opportunity to continue my journey with a new team.”
Opportunity came knocking Tuesday for Vikings rookie Stephen Burton.
With veteran Bernard Berrian waived, Burton was promoted from the team's practice squad. The 6-foot-1, 224-pound receiver was drafted in the seventh round in April out of West Texas A&M, a Division II school. Burton had 70 catches for 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns during his senior season.
The Vikings also announced defensive lineman Cedric McKinley, a former Gophers, was released from the practice squad.
Bernard Berrian’s time as a Viking has run out. The veteran wide receiver was waived today, midway through his fourth season in the Twin Cities.
The move brings to a close Berrian’s wildly inconsistent tenure with the Vikings and allows coach Leslie Frazier to move forward without a player that had caused him too many headaches this season.
Berrian was due $1.9 million this season. If another team does not claim him on waivers, the Vikings would be on the hook for the remaining $1.12 million left.
Berrian was expected to be a big part of the Vikings’ passing attack this fall, Berrian’s productivity slumped badly in the early season. He had only two catches for 37 yards in the team’s 0-4 start. He's also been put on the inactive list twice in the past three weeks.
Following a Week 4 loss in Kansas City, he also found himself in the center of a mini-controversy after engaging in a Twitter argument with state legislator John Kriesel.
Kriesel had instigated the bickering with a derisive Tweet in regards to Berrian’s claims that he had been open consistently.
“If you want to follow a hilarious twitter account, try @B_Twice (Bernard Berrian) who says that he’s open a lot and should get the ball more.”
Yet Berrian did himself no favors in the aftermath. First, he shot back at Kriesel on Twitter with this: “@johnkriesel Anytime u wanna watch the film with me. Not just one game but all of them. And if not sit down n shut up!!”
The next day when meeting with reporters, Berrian stuck to his guns and said he had been open for the better part of four years.
The following weekend Frazier put Berrian on the inactive list for a game against Arizona, a disciplinary move which subsequent reports indicated was tied to the receiver’s absence from multiple team meetings.
Then Sunday against Green Bay, Berrian was again put on the shelf, a move Frazier has refused to provide details on.
Asked Monday afternoon if Berrian was becoming a distraction, the Vikings coach spoke in ambiguous terms.
“One of the things you’re trying to do when you are where we are is make sure everybody’s focused on who we’re playing,” Frazier said. “This week, I think we’re playing Carolina. Everybody’s focus has to be on the Carolina Panthers. We’ve just got to make sure that we get everybody focused on what we have to be focused on.”
Berrian met with Frazier for 15 minutes Monday afternoon then spoke to reporters in the Vikings’ locker room shortly after. When asked what he had done to declared inactive this past weekend, Berrian said he had been asked not to talk about it.
The frustrated receiver said there was definitely more he wanted to share but couldn’t. Asked if he was afraid that speaking out too much would get him in more hot water, he laughed.
“You hit it right on the nail,” he said.
Berrian originally signed with the Vikings in 2008 and had a promising first season, catching 48 passes for 964 yards with seven touchdowns. Yet over the following two seasons, he never developed much rapport with quarterback Brett Favre.
This past offseason, Berrian restructured his contract with the Vikings, taking a significant pay cut. But he never emerged as the big-play threat the team wanted him to be.
Berrian seemed to have gotten back into the good graces of Frazier and the team in Week 6, returning to the field and
having his best performance with five catches for 54 yards against the Bears.
But in the two games he has been inactive, the Vikings had their two best offensive outings, scoring 34 points against the Cardinals and 27 against the Packers. Furthermore, Devin Aromashodu stepped up against Arizona with two catches for 81 yards and Michael Jenkins took Berrian’s starting spot Sunday and responded with three grabs for 111 yards and a touchdown.
“The ball bounces funny ways sometimes,” Berrian said Monday. “And you know the players that came in and took my spot did a nice job filling in that spot.”
Berrian was asked twice Monday whether he wanted to remain with the Vikings and was firm with his response.
“If I didn’t want to be here I wouldn’t have done what I did in the offseason [with the contract restructuring],” he said.
On Tuesday, the decision was made for Berrian. He will now be set free.
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