Vikings running back Dalvin Cook returned to practice Wednesday and said his injured groin is feeling good ahead of Sunday’s game in Green Bay.
Cook has not played since straining his groin while running a route in the Oct. 4 loss in Seattle; he sat out the next game against the Falcons before the Vikings’ bye week.
Despite two weeks’ rest, Cook is still ranked fifth in the NFL with 489 rushing yards and 18th in the league with 553 yards from scrimmage, and he said the bye week has him feeling productive again.
“Just getting back to feeling like Dalvin,” Cook said.
Vikings coaches are preparing to have Cook available against the Packers, but coach Mike Zimmer said he needs to see Cook practice before making a final determination. Cook was listed as a limited participant Wednesday.
“I assume that he’ll be ready,” Zimmer said.
Alexander Mattison had mixed results filling in for Cook, running for a career-high 112 yards in Seattle before a quiet first NFL start against Atlanta, finishing with 10 carries for 26 yards. Whether Cook returns to the same 75-80% playing time right away remains to be seen while he manages the groin strain that provided pain in an unusual spot.
“You pretty much let it calm down,” Cook said. “The area is so sensitive, and just like it’s a different spot. You pretty much let it calm down and heal itself. You do the strengthening part to get your muscles back intact and the rest.”
Guards Pat Elflein (thumb) and Dru Samia (wrist) also returned to practice. Elflein remains on injured reserve, but the Vikings have an open roster spot and can activate him before Sunday’s game if he’s ready. Samia, who made four starts for Elflein at right guard, was listed as a full participant after missing the Falcons game.
Hunter surgery successful
Defensive end Danielle Hunter underwent successful surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, Zimmer said.
He also explained Wednesday why he twice called Hunter’s injury a “tweak” on Aug. 17 and Aug. 27, the latter date being nearly two weeks after Hunter last practiced.
“When it all started, he woke up and thought he slept on his neck wrong,” Zimmer said, “so that’s why it was a tweak.”
Zimmer, who said Hunter should make a full recovery and play again in 2021, noted the Vikings medical staff didn’t have a full grasp of Hunter’s injury until an MRI “sometime in training camp.”
General Manager Rick Spielman has said the team was still in the dark as late as Aug. 30, when they acquired defensive end Yannick Ngakoue. Zimmer reviewed film of Hunter’s last practice Aug. 14 and was vague about what caused the injury.
“It was … hardly anything,” he said. “When we went back and looked at the tape from the previous [practice] — I don’t know what it was, a week later — I mean, it could’ve happened to anybody at any point.”
Still thin at corner
The Vikings were down to four cornerbacks during practice — Jeff Gladney, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand and Mark Fields. Boyd (hamstring/back) returned, but rookie Cameron Dantzler was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which means he’s quarantined because of a positive test or close contact with an infected person. He’s the first Vikings player on the COVID list since August.
By NFL rule, Dantzler could miss the game against the Packers if he tested positive or is deemed a “high-risk” close contact, which requires a five-day isolation period. If positive and asymptomatic, Dantzler can return after two negative tests taken within the five days. Symptomatic cases require at least a 10-day isolation.
Cornerbacks Mike Hughes (neck) and Holton Hill (foot) remained sidelined after the bye week. Newly acquired corner Chris Jones, claimed off waivers from the Lions on Monday, is not expected to be available this week because of the six-day entry testing protocols.