Minnesota Vikings: Chris Cook

MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing our review of the Minnesota Vikings' recent draft history today, with a look at how the team did in 2010:

First-round pick: No. 30 (traded to Detroit with fourth-rounder for second-rounder, fourth-rounder and seventh-rounder)

Number of picks: 8

Total Draft AV: 35 (31st; San Francisco was the best with a 128 AV)

Highest player AV: RB Toby Gerhart, 13 (T-75th; San Francisco's NaVorro Bowman was the best with a 50 AV)

Gerhart
How they did: If the 2009 draft was one of general manager Rick Spielman's best, the 2010 draft might rank as his worst. The Vikings began with the 30th pick in the draft, so they weren't going to get the top player on the board, but the number of players who didn't live up to expectations or simply didn't contribute makes this draft a significant missed opportunity for the Vikings. It came in a year when they were coming off an overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game and had designs on getting back there the next season. It is worth noting that of the teams who had the seven best drafts, according to Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value statistic, six -- San Francisco, New England, Denver, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Green Bay -- have played in a Super Bowl since then. The four teams who played in conference title games that season -- New Orleans, Indianapolis, the New York Jets and the Vikings -- all struggled to pull value out of late-round picks and haven't been back since.

Pivotal pick: The Vikings started the second round of the draft with two picks -- Nos. 34 and 62 overall -- after trading out of the first round. They used the first to select cornerback Chris Cook, but traded the second, along with a third-round pick, to Houston, in order to move up 11 spots and select Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. The former Heisman Trophy runner-up gave the Vikings a backup for Adrian Peterson after the departure of Chester Taylor, and the previous trade gave them ammunition to move back up in the draft, but Gerhart's role limited how much of an impact he would make. The 62nd pick wound up in the hands of the New England Patriots, who selected linebacker Brandon Spikes, and the Kansas City Chiefs acquired pick No. 93 to take tight end Tony Moeski -- two picks after the 49ers took Bowman.

Griffen
Best pick: It's a low bar, given the fact only one player from this draft is still on the team, but fourth-rounder Everson Griffen might win the title on that basis alone. The Vikings gambled on Griffen after character concerns dropped him in the draft, and have seen enough flashes of a dynamic pass-rusher that they spent $20 million in guaranteed money to make sure Griffen stays on their roster. After Gerhart signed with Jacksonville and Cook ended a disappointing tenure with the Vikings by signing with San Francisco, Griffen will run unopposed in his bid to become the most productive pick from the Vikings' 2010 draft.

Worst pick: There are several candidates here. One could make a case for fifth-rounders Chris DeGeare or Nate Triplett, who were both out of the league by 2012, and there is an equally compelling case to be made for Cook, who struggled with injuries, was suspended in 2011 after a domestic assault charge and didn't intercept a pass in 29 starts with the Vikings. According to Pro Football Reference, only one cornerback in NFL history has started more games than Cook without recording an interception.
MINNEAPOLIS -- A year ago this week, the Minnesota Vikings cut veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, making Chris Cook the senior member of a secondary the team was gambling could work without a proven veteran in the group. Cook was entering his fourth season and seemed to take the charge of extra responsibility seriously; he went back to school at the University of Virginia over the summer, working toward his degree and making sure to stay out of trouble, and came to training camp proclaiming he was ready to have the kind of breakout season that would lead to a long-term contract.

Cook
Cook is on his way out of Minnesota a year later, heading to the San Francisco 49ers on a one-year contract, closing a disappointing chapter of the Vikings' struggles to stock their secondary through the draft. They spent a second-round pick on Cook in 2010, only to see him get suspended for the second half of the 2011 season as he battled a domestic assault charge, struggle with injuries throughout his career and fail to make plays on the ball. His 29 starts without an interception are the second most by a defensive back in NFL history, and his most memorable moments of the 2013 season came on plays he was in position to make but couldn't close out -- such as the touchdown Alshon Jeffery caught over the top of Cook's head on Dec. 1, running almost five yards holding the ball just above Cook's helmet. The cornerback stuck an arm back toward Jeffery, but never turned his head to locate the ball, and was subsequently ejected for making contact with an official, whom Cook argued should have called pass interference two plays before.

Cook is 6-foot-2 and has the size and speed to match up against big receivers, which is why the 49ers are spending a low-risk deal on the chance they can turn him around. But he exits Minnesota as the latest cornerback not to make it after being taken early in the draft. Xavier Rhodes, one of the Vikings' three 2013 first-rounders, looks as though he can play, but 2012 third-rounder Josh Robinson still has much to prove. Cook was a second-rounder in 2010, and 2009 third-rounder Asher Allen was gone after starting 21 games in three seasons. Marcus McCauley, a third-round pick in 2007, washed out of Minnesota after two seasons, and while 2006 second-rounder Cedric Griffin looked as though he'd turn into a solid cornerback, two torn ACLs ended his career. Griffen and 2002 fourth-rounder Brian Williams are the only two Vikings draft picks to start more than three years at cornerback in the last 12 years.

Rhodes has a chance to reverse that trend, and while the Vikings have had plenty of trouble pinning down safeties, Harrison Smith looks like a star on the rise heading into his third season. But the Vikings' inability to stock one of the league's most important positions stands out as a major black mark on their recent draft history. Cook's ignominious exit from Minnesota is only the latest example of it.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Shortly after they finished a deal with former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, the Minnesota Vikings were preparing to add another cornerback to their roster. According to a league source, the Vikings were finalizing a deal on Thursday night with former San Diego Chargers cornerback Derek Cox, who could add some depth to their group of defensive backs next season.

Cox
The 6-foot-1 Cox began last season as a starter for the Chargers, but lost his starting job for good after he was benched three times in four weeks last November. Cox gave up three catches and a touchdown on three targets last Nov. 24 against Kansas City, and didn't play a significant role after that. Still, he had been a serviceable player in 2012, and intercepted four passes that season for the Jaguars. He'd give the Vikings another big corner, and he'd represent a low-risk gamble by the Vikings on the ability of coach Mike Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray to get something out of Cox.

He might also represent another closed door for a return by Chris Cook to the Vikings. The four-year player's future seemed uncertain after a conversation with Zimmer last week, and though Zimmer mentioned his ability to improve players who have a history of underachieving, like Cook does, the Vikings' order of business might tell the story better than anything else. They signed Munnerlyn and Cox on the same day Cook was scheduled to visit the San Francisco 49ers, and the Vikings now have eight cornerbacks signed for next season.

Of those eight -- Munnerlyn, Cox, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Shaun Prater, Robert Steeples and Kip Edwards -- only a handful might make the team, but the Vikings could also take another cornerback high in the draft. Those players might occupy whatever real estate and cap space was remaining for Cook to make a return to Minnesota.

Free-agency primer: Vikings

March, 7, 2014
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: QB Matt Cassel, DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams, DE Everson Griffen, CB Chris Cook, WR Jerome Simpson

Where they stand: The Vikings' biggest issue is at quarterback, where Christian Ponder is the only player they have under contract. They've told Cassel's agent they want to bring him back, but that could depend on how much more interest Cassel attracts on the free-agent market. Of the free agents on the Vikings' defensive line, Griffen probably has the best chance of returning to Minnesota to play in Mike Zimmer's new-look defense. But he, too, could attract attention from teams who think he can be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

What to expect: Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson could find a natural landing spot in Minnesota because of his familiarity with Zimmer and the Vikings' likely need for a new right end. Tennessee cornerback Alterraun Verner, who played for new Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray in Tennessee, could also make sense for Minnesota, though both Verner and Johnson will have plenty of suitors. The Vikings have more than $40 million in cap space, though, so they could be contenders for both. If Cassel doesn't come back, the Vikings will also have to pursue another veteran quarterback; running back Adrian Peterson tweeted on Wednesday that Michael Vick could quickly turn the team into a playoff contender.
MINNEAPOLIS -- If Chris Cook does wind up returning to Minnesota next season, he'll probably be greeted with a quick -- and direct -- discussion about new coach Mike Zimmer's thoughts on social media. Zimmer said on Thursday that Cook "probably shouldn't be tweeting our conversations," though the coach isn't on Twitter and hadn't seen that Cook had only posted that he and Zimmer had an honest conversation about his future.

But beyond the admonishment -- which had Cook riled up on Twitter again on Thursday -- Zimmer offered another hint that there still could be a place for the underachieving cornerback in Minnesota.

"He’s a guy that has some ability that I’ve had some luck in the past with, getting guys to play good that have ability," Zimmer said. "So if he comes back here then I’m going to coach him as hard as I can and see if I can get him to play good.”

Zimmer has said on several occasions that he gravitates toward players with something to prove, and Cook would certainly fit in that category. His size (6-foot-2) and ability to be physical with receivers could make him a fit in Zimmer's defense, and other than Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings don't have many corners who fit that mold. Zimmer's comments, in some ways, sounded to me like he was making an appeal to Cook that the Vikings would still be a good fit for him.

I think it's likely the team will try to upgrade its defensive backs group either in free agency or the draft, so Cook might not come in as a starter. If he's the third or fourth cornerback, though, with an urge to be more than that, he might match up well with Zimmer -- aside from the occasional Twitter flap.
BRISTOL, Conn. -- Hello from ESPN headquarters -- well, from a hotel just down the road from ESPN headquarters. All of us NFL Nation reporter types are gathered here this week for an offseason summit, where we'll brainstorm some ideas for coverage heading into the 2014 league year. It should be a fun, and productive, gathering of colleagues from across the country.

But before I head over to the mothership, I wanted to get your day started with a smattering of Vikings news, courtesy of free-agent cornerback-to-be Chris Cook. He sent out a string of tweets on Monday evening, talking about a conversation he'd had with new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. Cook is coming off a disappointing season, and his tweets seemed to suggest he's not at the forefront of the Vikings' plans heading into free agency.

"Talked to Zimmer today," Cook tweeted. "He told me like it is. If it's in the cards I look forward to having him at the helm." Cook then tweeted, "8 more days," following it up with, "Well, 7.25 days," which would imply a countdown to next Tuesday's opening of the free-agent market.

Cook missed four games because of injury last season, struggled in man coverage and was ejected from the Vikings' Dec. 1 over the Chicago Bears after he made contact with an official following Alshon Jeffery's touchdown over his head. He's started the second-most games by a cornerback without an interception in NFL history, and his trouble playing the ball showed up at the worst possible times last season. Because of that, he probably won't walk into free agency with a robust market.

The guess here, however, has been that the 27-year-old corner could come back to the Vikings on an affordable deal and get some time to work with Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray (the Tennessee Titans' former defensive coordinator). He's still 6-foot-2 and is big enough to press receivers. If the Vikings can refine his man-coverage skills, he could be a nice option to have as a third or fourth corner who can step in as a starter if injuries hit. Big cornerbacks are a precious commodity in the NFL, and if Zimmer felt he could get more out of Cook -- who might be one of those players with something to prove that appeals to the coach -- it could be worth the gamble to bring Cook back.

At this point, we've got less than 7.25 days before we'll start to get some answers to that possibility.

Meet the free agents: DB Chris Cook

February, 25, 2014
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Today we conclude our look at one of the Minnesota Vikings heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he'll be back with the club in 2014.

Free agent to be: Chris Cook

Position: Cornerback

Age: 27

Years in the league: 4

What he made last season: $2,305,000 (cap number); $1,730,000 (cash value)

What he did last season: Cook was expected to blossom in his fourth year, both as a cornerback and the leader of the Vikings' young secondary, but things never really worked out for him. He missed four games with injuries, was ejected from the Vikings' Dec. 1 win over the Chicago Bears after contacting an official and got beat for a league-high nine touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus. Four of those came against the Bears, including Martellus Bennett's game-winning score with 10 seconds left in Week 2 after a coverage mistake left Cook covering two receivers.

His potential market value: As many tools as the 6-foot-2 Cook has to be a solid NFL corner, he hasn't been able to make his case on the field. He hasn't recorded an interception in 29 NFL starts -- the second-most without an interception by a defensive back in NFL history -- and injuries have been far too prevalent a factor for Cook to get big money this spring. He hasn't shown good ball skills in the NFL, and got beat too often over the top last year, which shouldn't happen so frequently to a corner of his size.

Will he still fit the Vikings? Cook will present the same positives and negatives for them as he will with any other NFL team. His size and willingness to be physical could make him a good fit for the Vikings, who figure to play more man coverage next season than they have in the past. He likely wouldn't factor prominently into their plans, and he might not be a candidate for anything more than a one- or two-year deal. But coach Mike Zimmer has talked about how he identifies with players who have something to prove, and new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray might see Cook as a player he can help fix. Would the gamble be worth taking, if the price isn't too high and if the Vikings can improve the secondary to the point where Cook is their third or fourth corner? It just might be.

What happens: This is a tricky one, and there might not be a Vikings free agent who is more polarizing than Cook. But we're going to go out on a limb here. Based solely on Zimmer's willingness to gamble that he can get more out of players who haven't hit their potential yet, we guess the Vikings bring Cook back on a one-year deal. They will give him a chance to fight his way off the fringes of their roster and prove he's capable of more than he's done so far.

Countdown to combine: Vikings DBs

February, 19, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Hello from Indiana, where we're setting up camp in advance of the NFL scouting combine. We're back at it with our Countdown to Combine series, looking at four positions where the Minnesota Vikings need help heading into the 2014 draft. It all leads up to our coverage of the combine, which begins on Thursday.

Position of need: Defensive back

The Vikings allowed more points than any team in the league last season, and a secondary that suffered in the wake of Antoine Winfield's departure was a big part of the problem. Josh Robinson struggled to fill the slot corner position Winfield had played so well -- to the point where the Vikings nearly brought Winfield out of retirement before their Sept. 29 game in London -- and cornerback Chris Cook continued to struggle in man coverage, exposing the team's passing game during a season when their safeties were beset with injuries.

Three players the Vikings might be targeting:

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: The cornerback would give the Vikings another big cover corner to pair with Xavier Rhodes. He's at the top of Mel Kiper Jr.'s cornerback rankings Insider, and could be the kind of player the Vikings can get if they wind up trading back a few spots from the No. 8 overall pick. New coach Mike Zimmer will likely use more man coverage than the Vikings have employed in the past, and being able to put Gilbert with Rhodes would be an impressive foundation for the Vikings' secondary.

Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: He isn't far behind Gilbert in many rankings, and would bring a similar skill set; Dennard can also be a press corner, and like Gilbert, he would give the Vikings a corner with a knack for making big plays. That element, in particular, would be a welcome addition to the Vikings' secondary; Cook has started the second-most games in NFL history without recording an interception.

Jason Verrett, TCU: The 5-foot-10 corner would provide a different kind of option from Gilbert and Dennard; he would likely be able to step in and play slot cornerback, if the Vikings' new defensive staff didn't feel Robinson had grown enough to handle the job. In any case, it might behoove the Vikings to have another option for the position.
Each week, I will field questions via Twitter with the hashtag #VikingsMail, then will deliver the answers over the weekend.
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're continuing on with our position-by-position outlook of the Minnesota Vikings' roster. Today: the defensive backs.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

2014 free agents: Chris Cook, Marcus Sherels (restricted)

Rhodes
The good: In a year where the Vikings' pass defense gave up more touchdowns than any in the league, it was tough to find bright spots in their secondary, but a few did emerge toward the end of the season. Rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes thrived when the Vikings let him play more press coverage, and seemed to make a significant leap in December. Cornerback Shaun Prater also had an impressive interception against Philadelphia, and was at least serviceable once injuries depleted the Vikings' cornerback depth. Second-year man Robert Blanton moved from safety to nickel cornerback in December. And at safety. the Vikings found out they might have a solid contributor in Andrew Sendejo, who filled in for the injured Harrison Smith and looked like he might be able to push Jamarca Sanford for playing time in 2014.

The bad: Where do we start? At cornerback, the Vikings look like they might have something in Rhodes, and the 5-foot-10 Sherels competed as hard as anyone on the Vikings' roster. But general manager Rick Spielman made the decision to cut Antoine Winfield based on the belief the Vikings would get enough development from their young corners to survive, and that just didn't happen. In the first two months of the season, slot cornerback Josh Robinson was targeted more than any other cornerback in the league, and was struggling so much in September that the Vikings nearly re-signed Winfield before their Sept. 29 game in London. And Cook, who was supposed to be the leader of the group in his fourth season, had another rough season; Pro Football Focus had Cook getting beat for nine touchdowns, which tied the most in the league.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Sanford ($2.75 million), Harrison Smith ($1.94 million), Rhodes ($1.77 million), Sendejo ($866,666), Robinson ($811,250), Mistral Raymond ($669,483), Blanton ($622,763), Prater ($570,000), Robert Steeples ($495,000). It wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings make a run at a free-agent cornerback like Tennessee's Alterraun Verner, whom new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray coached as the Titans' defensive coordinator. The Vikings need to add some quality corners to their roster, and just for the sake of opening up roster space, it might lead them to cut some of the low-priced corners at the bottom of their roster.

Draft priority: High. The Vikings took Rhodes in Round 1 last year, and if there's a good cornerback available at No. 8, they could look in that direction if they can't find a quarterback. There are two things you absolutely have to be good at in today's NFL -- throwing the ball and stopping the pass -- and the Vikings weren't very good at either of them. Someone like Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert could be a good fit for the Vikings in the first round.
Welcome back to our chronological look at the 10 plays that most shaped the Vikings' 2013 season. Today: Play No. 3.

WHEN: Sept. 15, 2013

WHERE: A 31-30 loss to the Chicago Bears.

THE PLAY: Jay Cutler's 16-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left.

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastBears tight end Martellus Bennett, left, scores the winning TD in the final minute against Minnesota.
WHAT THEY SAID: Cornerback Chris Cook: "A few guys were off. And when guys are off, other guys try to cover it to help them out, and things happen. It's football, man. It's a fast game."

IMPACT OF THE PLAY: If we were ranking these plays in order of importance to the Vikings' season, there's a strong argument to be made for this one at the top of the list. It was the first of the Vikings' five blown leads in the final minute of a game. It cost them their first win in Chicago since 2007, and in a game that several players labeled as must-win after a season-opening loss to Detroit, the Vikings' defense spent the last minute of the game in confusion and the aftermath of the game seething with anger. Cook didn't talk after the game, saying "I'm in a bad place right now," safety Harrison Smith took the blame for leaving Cook to cover both Earl Bennett and Martellus Bennett and middle linebacker Erin Henderson said the Vikings hadn't practiced the defense they ran on Cutler's touchdown pass in that situation. Several other players were biting their tongues, and coach Leslie Frazier said he needed to be more assertive in the play-calling chain of command at the end of games, though he stopped short of saying he should have usurped defensive coordinator Alan Williams.

So what happened? If you remember, the Bears ran four verticals, running the same route combination they'd used on Smith's interception earlier in the game, except Cutler had Earl and Martellus Bennett switch releases, having Martellus Bennett -- who'd motioned out wide from an H-back position -- cross behind Earl Bennett. The Vikings had safety Jamarca Sanford up at the line of scrimmage, showing a blitz to draw attention away from Everson Griffen's stunt behind Jared Allen. That left Smith as the lone deep safety, with Josh Robinson and Xavier Rhodes lined up on Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

From there, chaos ensued. Cook was motioning for help on his side before the play, but he never got it. Sanford dropped into a short zone with Henderson, Robinson followed Marshall to the end zone while Rhodes stayed in a zone drop, letting Jeffery run free to the end zone. Smith initially started toward Marshall (saying after the game that if he had to guess, he figured Cutler would throw there), while Cook turned his hips into a zone drop, initially moving toward Earl Bennett before cutting back toward Martellus Bennett. But once Cook turned his hips sideways, giving Martellus Bennett the release he needed for Cutler's back shoulder throw, the play was all over; Cutler drilled Bennett for a touchdown, giving the Bears the win and sending the Vikings' season into a spiral.

Players thank Frazier for his impact

December, 30, 2013
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings have now been through three coaches in the eight years the Wilf family has owned the team. They fired the first, Mike Tice, minutes after the 2005 season ended. They got rid of the second, Brad Childress, in the middle of the 2010 season, after he usurped their authority in cutting Randy Moss and his players soured on him.

Frazier
So simply because of logistics, it's a safe bet there hasn't been a scene in recent memory like what happened Monday morning at Winter Park, when Frazier said goodbye to his players -- some of whom admitted they were holding back tears -- told them to call him if they ever needed anything and left the room to a round of applause. But the uniqueness of the moment goes beyond that.

It's not normal for a group of professional athletes, who operate removed from the front office and insulate themselves emotionally with reminders about how the game is a business, to emerge from a meeting like that and admit to reporters what their emotions were. It's even less normal to hear so many talk about what Frazier -- first as the Vikings defensive coordinator, and then as their head coach -- meant to them as men. But that's Frazier. And the things for which his players praised him are the things he does best.

Some coaches make their money as tacticians. Others make it as taskmasters and disciplinarians. Frazier's thing was servant leadership: his ability to get players to follow him, and play for each other, because of how he treated them.

Consider the stories players told Monday: Erin Henderson, who was arrested last month for drunken driving and who has talked about dealing with emotional issues this season, talked about how Frazier encouraged him over the past six years in Minnesota, and said he plans to keep in touch with Frazier. Chris Cook, who was arrested in 2011, said Frazier "definitely helped me as far as being a calm person and channeling some of my aggression that I had when I first came in." And Jared Allen, who came to Minnesota after struggling with alcohol in Kansas City, said he believed Frazier's presence in his life wasn't a coincidence.

"When you come in [at] 25 years old and land a huge contract, heck, we’ve seen it in the league go the wrong way a lot of times," Allen said. "[It was] just helping me from the standpoint of having somebody to talk to as far as, when I first started dating my wife, just life, and going to someone for advice. I think people think all the time that just because you’re a professional or you’re in the NFL that we have it all figured out. Heck, I know people in their 50s and 60s who don’t have it figured out. We’re always growing and looking for people to guide us along that way. Coach Frazier is one of those guys that God put in my life at a certain time to help me develop as a man."

There were valid criticisms of Frazier as a head coach -- he might have been too deferential to his coaching staff this season, and too beholden to a style of football that doesn't work in today's NFL. Those things might have been grounds to get him fired.

Those are separate issues from what will probably be Frazier's legacy in the NFL: the number of players who credited his influence and leadership in their lives. That's a powerful thing to say about a person in any walk of life, and it's even more so in a profession that seems to often reward aggression over humility. It's accurate to say Frazier was popular among his players, but it's probably also too shallow of a characterization.

It's more accurate to say they had a deep appreciation for Frazier's character. That, more than anything else, created a uniquely somber mood at Winter Park on Monday.

"When you talk to him, you respect him as a man and you respect what he believes in," safety Jamarca Sanford said. "He’s a Godly man. He believes in God. He’s a great guy. At the end of the day, he didn’t succeed like he wanted to as a head coach, but at the end of the day we respect him for each and every play. One player on this team can’t have one bad thing to say about him as a man. As a coach, the way he did things you might have something to say, I don’t. But as a player you might not agree, but at the end of the day you respect as a man.”

Vikings inactives: Rhodes out

December, 29, 2013
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Hello from the late, great Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which sees its final NFL game today as the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions finish their seasons (and possibly the tenures of their respective coaches). We'll have plenty more on that later, but from a competitive perspective, today's game will be missing a few things.

Both the Vikings and Lions are out of the playoff chase, both will be missing their star players (Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson) and both will be missing at least two of their top five cornerbacks. For the Vikings, that means rookie Xavier Rhodes will be out with a sprained ankle. Rhodes had been listed as questionable for the game after working out late last week, but he evidently wasn't able to go today. Chris Cook, Shaun Prater and Marcus Sherels will be the Vikings' top three corners today. Not having to defend Johnson will make things easier, but the Lions showed in September they can gash the Vikings' defense with Reggie Bush, too.

Josh Freeman, of course, ends his season on the inactive list, which could bring his bizarre tenure in Minnesota to a close. Freeman has only been active as a backup quarterback since his "Monday Night Football" debacle in October, and it seems unlikely he'll be in the Vikings' plans going forward, unless a new coach would have some strong ties to him.

Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives:

Vikings: Xavier Rhodes practices again

December, 26, 2013
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In addition to getting Adrian Peterson back on the practice field, the Vikings saw cornerback Xavier Rhodes practice for the second time this week on Thursday, giving coach Leslie Frazier hope the rookie could play in the season finale against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Rhodes
Before he missed the Vikings' past two games with a sprained ankle, Rhodes had been turning into one of the Vikings' best cover corners, and the team especially suffered without him in Cincinnati last weekend, when Chris Cook gave up two touchdown passes in a 42-14 loss. If the Vikings were to get Rhodes back on the field, it could help them against Calvin Johnson and give them one more chance to see the rookie against top competition this year. Cook has typically covered Johnson in Vikings-Lions matchups, but if Rhodes is healthy enough to start, he could see time lined up against Johnson.

The Vikings are also trying to get cornerback Shaun Prater back from a sprained ankle, and coach Leslie Frazier said his starters would depend on "how healthy they are."

"They should all be out there tomorrow," Frazier said. "We'll figure out how healthy they all actually are."

Frazier also said running back Toby Gerhart looks like a long shot to play Sunday; Gerhart was not on the practice field again on Thursday with a strained hamstring.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:
Leslie FrazierAP Photo/Tom UhlmanA 42-14 loss to the Bengals didn't help Leslie Frazier's case to remain the Vikings' head coach.
CINCINNATI -- The Minnesota Vikings had just finished their 10th and most lopsided loss of the season, falling by four touchdowns to the Cincinnati Bengals at a time when such a shot could prove fatal to the chances of coach Leslie Frazier keeping his job. Running back Adrian Peterson -- who had said on Friday he looked forward to playing for Frazier "for the rest of my career," was even more pointed in his support of Frazier on Sunday.

After the season, Peterson said, he planned to communicate that support directly to ownership.

"I'm definitely not an individual that's looking for dramatic change. It would hurt if he leaves," Peterson said. "I try to say what I think, but there's a time and place for everything. With the season getting wrapped up, that time is coming. I'm going to give my input, see what they have to say and we'll go from there."

By that time, it might be too late for Peterson or anyone else looking to stump for Frazier. The Vikings need wins more than words to make that case, and instead of following up a blowout of the Philadelphia Eagles with another win over a playoff contender on Sunday, they got steamrolled, 42-14, by the Bengals in a game that guaranteed Frazier will have more seasons with double-digit losses (two) than double-digit wins (one) to his name as the Vikings' coach.

The loss, as much as anything, highlighted the glaring deficiencies on the Vikings' roster. Frazier can do little about his quarterback situation, where the inconsistent Matt Cassel has looked like the best of a weak bunch, and on Sunday, the coach's list of healthy cornerbacks included a converted safety (Robert Blanton), an undrafted free agent (Marcus Sherels), two practice-squad additions (Shaun Prater and Robert Steeples) and former second-round pick Chris Cook, who's been so unreliable that the Vikings were rotating him with Prater and Sherels on Sunday. That situation hangs more on general manager Rick Spielman than it does Frazier, but in light of how much the Vikings have apparently been doing their homework on coaching candidates, Frazier's fate might be sealed.

Citing multiple sources, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that Vikings ownership has told others around the league that it is planning to make a head coaching change after this season, though one team source was adamant that nothing has been decided yet. Vikings ownership has told others that it believes it presides over an attractive opportunity, one that will have another premium draft pick, along with the promise of a new stadium coming. The Vikings already have been doing their due diligence on potential replacements for Frazier, and their wish list is said to include Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, among others.

I'd heard rumblings of candidates putting out feelers for the Vikings job as early as November, when the team was 1-7, and in reality, Frazier was in a tough spot last January, when ownership decided not to offer him a contract extension after a 10-6 season, choosing instead to pick up his 2014 option and effectively forcing him to repeat a season where the Vikings enjoyed a soft schedule, good fortune with injuries and the singular brilliance of Peterson during his 2,097-yard march on Eric Dickerson's record.

The odds of doing that were slim when the Vikings had so much uncertainty at possibly the two most important positions in the NFL -- quarterback and cornerback -- and while Peterson insisted after the loss that the Bengals weren't better than the Vikings, Frazier almost sounded at a loss for what he could do with his young secondary racked by injuries and not only Peterson, but backup Toby Gerhart trying to play through injuries.

"It's been tough, now. I'm not going to sit here and sugarcoat that," Frazier said. "Where we are in the secondary, and where we were today, having to get [running back] Joe Banyard up with Toby going down [after re-injuring his hamstring on the Vikings' first series], we tried our best to maximize the roster. ... The good thing about Joe Banyard, about Shaun, all those guys is, they're playing as hard as they can and giving you everything they have. But some of those matchups can be difficult, for sure."

Frazier said this week he was just making a "general comment" in a Sirius XM Radio interview when he praised the Rooney family for their patience with the Pittsburgh Steelers' coaches, but it's hard to believe he wasn't uttering the remarks without an eye toward his own situation. His status looked as bleak as ever on Sunday, when his players could only offer statements of support while the results pushed Frazier to the brink.

"We'll have some internal discussions, but I've got one more game in this season," Frazier said. "I'm looking forward to hopefully coaching that final game and getting us a win at Mall of America Field as we close out the [Metrodome]. That's where my focus will be."

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