Dalvin Cook needed a cart to exit the field at Levi's Stadium on Sunday, but he might not be done for 2021.
Cook suffered a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum in Minnesota's Week 12 loss to San Francisco, but the injury will not end his season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. An MRI revealed the damage, which leaves Cook without a definitive timeline for return. The Vikings hope Cook will be able to rest, heal and rehab for a few weeks like he did in 2019 before returning for Minnesota's stretch run, per Rapoport. Cook could potentially return as early as Week 15 against the Bears.
Cook suffered the injury in the second half of Sunday's game, writhing on the ground in pain for an extended period of time before a cart arrived to carry him off the field. Minnesota turned to Alexander Mattison following Cook's departure, ultimately falling to the 49ers, 34-26.
Cook missed the final two weeks of the regular season in 2019 due to a chest injury before returning in time for the postseason. Cook carried the ball 28 times in his first game back, a surprising wild-card win over the New Orleans Saints in which he finished with 94 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. The next week, Minnesota fell to San Francisco in the Divisional Round in a game in which Cook carried the ball just nine times for 18 yards.
Cook has carried the ball 171 times for 773 yards and four touchdowns this season, adding 27 receptions for 202 yards. He remains an integral part of Minnesota's offense, which relies on its wide zone scheme to establish an effective ground game while also turning to Kirk Cousins to deliver passes to a receiving corps headlined by Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
Without Cook, the Vikings will have to turn to Mattison and rookie Kene Nwangwu. The latter has primarily been a special teams weapon, returning two kicks for touchdowns in 2021. He also received one handoff Sunday after Cook's departure.
At 5-6, the Vikings are still very much in the running for the final wild-card spot in the NFC. They'll need Mattison to step up to the challenge of replacing Cook in the interim with the hopes they can stay in the race while awaiting Cook's return.