Dalvin Cook's incredible season has come to an end as the Vikings running back left the team this week after the death of his father. He will be unavailable for Sunday's regular season finale against the Lions.
Cook left for Miami to be with family after his father, James, unexpectedly passed away. Even if he were available to play in Detroit, Cook likely couldn't because of the NFL's COVID-19 protocols, which require five days of negative coronavirus tests if the daily testing routine is interrupted.
"Tragic news," quarterback Kirk Cousins said Wednesday morning. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, and just want him to take all the time he needs to process through that. Very sorry to hear that."
Cook is one of a few players who could miss Sunday's game in Detroit. Coach Mike Zimmer responded "no" when asked Wednesday morning if he'd yet decided to sit any starters with the Vikings eliminated from postseason contention.
But they'll also be without tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was placed on injured reserve this week because of a foot injury sustained Dec. 6. Left tackle Riley Reiff, one of five players to not yet miss a snap on offense or defense, needs to test his way out of quarantine after being put on the COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Linebacker Eric Kendricks remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice and hasn't played since aggravating a left calf injury earlier this month.
Running back Alexander Mattison, if healthy, would start for Cook. Mattison has most recently been sidelined by a concussion suffered Dec. 20 against the Bears, his first game back from a Dec. 5 appendectomy that kept him out for two weeks. Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah could also handle larger roles in Detroit.
"Want to give all my prayers to Dalvin and his family," receiver Justin Jefferson said. "It's a tough situation to be in, to lose your loved ones. We're all behind him and we're all praying for him."
Cook's fourth NFL season ends with a league-leading 1,918 yards from scrimmage, which will likely slip to second with Titans running back Derrick Henry just 27 yards behind him. Cook signed a five-year, $63 million contract extension in September that put him among the top-five highest paid running backs, and he established his place in that tier with his play.
Only Henry has more than Cook's 1,557 rushing yards and nobody has more than his 16 rushing touchdowns in just 14 games. It's the third-best rushing season in Vikings franchise history, trailing only Adrian Peterson in 2012 (2,097) and 2008 (1,760).
Cook dealt with groin and ankle injuries, but also answered questions about his durability while handling a league-leading workload — 25.4 touches per game — that currently edges Henry (24.2) and is the most by a Vikings player in franchise history with a minimum of 14 games. He surpassed Chuck Foreman's 1975 season, when he had three fewer touches than Cook in 14 games. Peterson topped out at 24.2 touches per game during his 2012 NFL MVP season.
On-field excellence has been matched off the field, as Cook was scheduled Wednesday to be presented with the 2020 Korey Stringer Good Guy Award for professionalism with the media, as voted on by the Minnesota chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association.