MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings were braced for bad news and got it Monday, Oct. 1. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook is out for the season because of a torn ligament in his left knee.
Cook was hurt when he wrenched the knee while making a cut in the third quarter of Sunday's 14-7 loss to Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium. A magnetic resonance imaging exam Monday confirmed that he has a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"It's obviously a terrible thing for him and for us, but we'll move forward and go from there," coach Mike Zimmer said. "But he's a great worker and I have no doubt that he'll come back from this."
Cook ranks third in the NFL in rushing with 354 yards.
"He's a great kid," Zimmer said. "I'm extremely impressed with what he's done to this point ... The biggest thing was Dalvin had unbelievable big-play ability in a lot of different ways. We are going to have to continue to look for more ways to implement some big plays in the offense."
Taking over for Cook Monday night at Chicago will be Latavius Murray, who has 14 carries this season for 38 yards. Zimmer said the Vikings (2-2) are considering the possibility of signing another running back, as well.
"I need to be productive, be really productive,'' said Murray, who made the Pro Bowl in 2015 when he rushed for 1,066 yards with Oakland.
Murray was considered the leading candidate to replace Adrian Peterson as the starting running back when he was signed as a free agent last March. That changed when Cook was selected in the second round in the April draft and Murray missed offseason practices while recovering from ankle surgery.
Peterson suffered a torn ACL in 2011 and bounced back in 2012 to rush for 2,097 yards and be named NFL MVP. Zimmer said he touched upon that in a conversation with Cook.
"I talked to him ... about doctors we have here and the medical staff, and how they were able to rehab the last great runner here," Zimmer said. "I expect him to come back and be the same that he was."
Zimmer said Sunday the Vikings suspected Cook had an ACL tear but needed an MRI to confirm. Cook also has some cartilage damage, and perhaps some meniscus damage, the coach said, and will have surgery when "the swelling goes down."
Murray underwent surgery March 22 on his right ankle and didn't practice with the Vikings for the first time until Aug. 7. Asked Monday when he returned to 100 percent, Murray said, "To be honest, I'm still getting to that point."
"It's not going to quite feel the same for a while." he added. "... But I feel good enough to be out there and that I'm confident in myself that I can play at a high level. I think at this point, really, it's been general soreness after the game."
Murray stressed that few players are "100 percent in this game" and said he's "able to handle any workload."
Zimmer said Jerick McKinnon also could have an increased role. McKinnon was a part-time starter last season after Peterson was lost to a meniscus tear and ran for 539 yards. He has 10 carries this season for 26 yards.
"Nothing changes for me," McKinnon said of his mindset.
Cook's is the latest of many injuries that have plagued the Vikings the past two seasons. In 2016, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season in with a knee injury in August. Peterson missed 13 games, and the offensive line was riddled with injury absences.
Quarterback Sam Bradford has missed the past three games with a left knee injury. Zimmer said he remains "day-to-day" and didn't rule him out for Monday's game against the Bears.
"The train's going to keep on going, baby," defensive end Everson Griffen said. "We've got guys who are going to step up in that role. ... We don't like that negative energy. We're going to think positive and we're going to keep it going in a positive way."