This post was updated after publication with new information about Dalvin Cook’s injury.
On Sunday, Vikings fans once again read the words that give them nightmares: non-contact knee injury.
In the third quarter of the Vikings-Lions game—a 14-7 Detroit victory—Dalvin Cook took a handoff from Case Keenum up the middle, and as the star rookie running back planted his left leg to cut around a defender, his knee gave way, sending him tumbling to the ground. As he fell, he immediately reached for his knee, fumbling the ball in the process.
Dalvin Cook's injury did not look good at all pic.twitter.com/xCqYNW7PhB— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) October 1, 2017
Cook eventually limped off the field and later appeared to test the leg by walking on the sideline, but he was still sent to the locker room and minutes later was ruled out for the rest of the game. On Monday, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters that Cook tore his ACL—he will have surgery, and is out for the remainder of the season.
#Vikings coach Mike Zimmer confirms: RB Dalvin Cook is done for the season with a torn ACL. He’ll have surgery.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 2, 2017
The play called to mind last preseason’s Teddy Bridgewater injury—a haunting memory for Viking fans. Bridgewater suffered a noncontact knee injury in practice that turned out to be a complete ACL tear and dislocated knee. He sat out all of last season and started this year on the PUP list, although there’s hope that after he comes off of it in Week 7, he may be able to play at some point this season.
Cook missing the rest of the season will come as another blow to a Vikings offense that is already playing with a backup quarterback under center. After Week 3, Cook sat at second in the league in rushing. He’s also a threat as a receiver, and taking away that underneath component in the passing game will complicate the offense for Keenum, the Vikings’ interim starter.
In a year when rookie running backs have played such a big role in the league—the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt led all rushers through the first three weeks, and Leonard Fournette and Tarik Cohen are making big splashes in Jacksonville and Chicago— losing Cook from that bunch is a sad development. Jerick McKinnon has been getting most of Minnesota’s carries when Cook isn’t on the field, and the team also signed Latavius Murray—who could prove to be a solid backfield presence in Cook’s absence—this offseason. Even with Murray and McKinnon, though, the Vikings will have a hard time replacing Cook, who has looked like a potential superstar through the first three weeks of the season. Without him, Minnesota’s chances of challenging the Packers and Lions in the NFC North diminish significantly.