Updated: October 26th, 2011 6:40pm
Zulgad: Vikings in a no-win situation when it comes to Chris Cook

Zulgad: Vikings in a no-win situation when it comes to Chris Cook

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The decision the Minnesota Vikings made Tuesday to part ways with Bernard Berrian was an easy one.

The wide receiver might have said he wanted to remain with the team, but everything he did pointed to a guy who couldn't wait to be shown the door.

Berrian's signing as a free agent in 2008 will prove to be a costly mistake both from the standpoint that after a solid first season he never came close to living up to expectations and because the six-year, $42 million deal he received called for $23 million to be paid from 2008-2010.

Nonetheless, the 1-6 Vikings are in a position now where even if Berrian had been productive there was no assurance he was part of any long-term solution for this franchise.

The same statement can't be made about cornerback Chris Cook.

Cook was suspended indefinitely without pay by the team on Tuesday night after the Hennepin County Attorney's Office filed a felony domestic assault strangulation charge against him.

Cook was arrested early Saturday after a neighbor called police to his Eden Prairie residence. Cook, according to the criminal complaint, strangled his girlfriend twice, then struck her on the side of the head after finding out she spoke to a former boyfriend.

This follows Cook's issue with the law last spring when he was found not guilty of brandishing a firearm after he allegedly pulled a gun on a neighbor in his home state of Virginia.

There is a chance the NFL will get involved in this situation and hand out its own discipline. There also is a real possibility Cook has played his final game with the Vikings.

If that's the case, it will be a significant blow to an organization that can ill afford to take such a hit.

Cook doesn't appear to be an elite player, but he has shown flashes in his two seasons of being someone who can be an effective starting cornerback in the NFL. Those guys aren't easy to find and Cook's ability is the reason why the team invested its first pick of the 2010 draft, a second-rounder, in him.

Cook, who is 6-2, 212 pounds, had started three of the Vikings' first six games, including two in a row in place of the injured Antoine Winfield.

Cook would have started again in last Sunday's loss to Green Bay but he spent that day in a jail cell. The Vikings have plenty of question marks in their secondary and Cook seemed to be one of the few answers before this incident.

Winfield is 34 years old and it appears when he is healthy that his best role is playing inside in the nickel defense. Cedric Griffin will turn 29 on Nov. 11 and has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in both knees over the past two seasons.

Although he is the starter at right corner, Griffin has given little indication that he will be able to fully bounce back from his injuries.

The remaining corners on the roster are Asher Allen, Brandon Burton and Marcus Sherels.
Allen, a third-round pick in 2009, has started 14 career games but is better used in a situational role. He might be the best of those three, given that Burton was a fifth-round pick in April and Sherels was signed as a rookie free agent in 2010.

The potential loss of Cook also means the Vikings' 2010 draft would become very questionable.

The team traded its first-round pick (30th overall) to Detroit that year and took Cook 34th overall. There was speculation that the Vikings thought they could make the deal with the Lions and still grab cornerback Patrick Robinson but the Saints took Robinson 32nd overall.

The Vikings then traded up to grab running back Toby Gerhart in the second round. Houston received the Vikings' third-round pick in that transaction.

Defensive end Everson Griffen, who had off-the-field issues at Southern Cal and two run-ins with the law this past offseason, was taken in the fourth round.

The remainder of the Vikings draft went like this: 5. Chris DeGeare, tackle, Wake Forest; 5. Nate Triplett, linebacker, Minnesota; 6. Joe Webb, quarterback, Alabama-Birmingham; 7. Mickey Shuler, tight end, Penn State; 7. Ryan D'Imperio, linebacker, Rutgers.

Triplett and Shuler never played a game for the Vikings. DeGeare is now on the practice squad after spending last season on the 53-man roster.

Gerhart, Griffen and D'Imperio, who was converted to fullback, are backups and Webb is the No. 3 quarterback. Remove Cook and there is a chance that not one member of this draft class will have a significant impact with the Vikings.

What's interesting in hindsight about the Cook pick is that there were some red flags surrounding him when he was selected. The questions surrounded Cook's commitment and the fact he was ruled academically ineligible for what would have been his senior season in 2008 at Virginia.

Cook fell down the draft boards of some teams, but Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and the rest of the staff were convinced by what they saw and heard from Cook. He returned in 2009 with Virginia and had a career-high four interceptions.

But not even two years after the Vikings decided that Cook was worth the gamble, the decision now might have to be made that he's not worth keeping around.

One X-factor in all of this will be what comes from owner Zygi Wilf, who is in the midst of trying to get the state on board to approve a stadium and can't afford to have the allegations against Cook used against him.

Ideally, the stadium and Cook wouldn't be tied together but to think that isn't going to happen simply isn't realistic.

What is realistic is that if the Vikings end up parting ways with Cook, a franchise that already is rebuilding has been delivered a major setback. 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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