ST. PAUL — Alexander Mattison did a pretty good Dalvin Cook impression last weekend. He might need to do it again.
Cook, the Vikings’ star running back, missed practice Wednesday with a groin strain suffered last Sunday night at Seattle. While the Vikings haven’t yet ruled him out, it’s likely they will exercise caution and sit him out of Sunday’s game against Atlanta at U.S. Bank Stadium.
If the NFL’s leading rusher doesn’t play, he will be replaced by Mattison, who took over when Cook was hurt on Minnesota’s first play of the second half and finished with a career-high 112 yards on 20 carries in a 27-26 loss to the Seahawks.
“You see what he can do,” Cook said.
Cook said before practice Wednesday, Oct. 14, he felt “better” but declined to speculate on whether he will play against the Falcons. “We’re going to take this thing day by day, just see how it feels after treatment and everything,” he said.
The Vikings have a bye next week, which could give Cook an extra week to rest before the Nov. 1 game at Green Bay. But Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he doesn’t consider the bye week a factor in evaluating Cook.
“No,” Zimmer said. “I talked to (Cook) and he said he’s feeling really good. So, we’ll see how it goes.”
Cook called it a “freak accident” when he was hurt while catching a screen pass that resulted in a five-yard loss. He returned later in the quarter for one play before sitting out the rest of the game.
“Initially, I thought I was cramping for a minute because it’s in a weird spot,” said Cook, who has 489 yards rushing for the 1-4 Vikings. “Went to the locker room and did some tests and the only thing that was to do was to give it a go. That was all my call. … I went out there and it was just a thing where I wasn’t in game-ready, game-situation to play.”
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Cook, in his fourth season, and the 5-11, 220-pound Mattison, in his second, are very close. Cook calls him “Deuce,’’ Mattison’s nickname since he was a kid.
“It’s crazy when we come on the field how we see things so similar,” Cook said. “He’s just a bigger version. When he comes in, he’s trying to break the home run, too.”
Mattison, who has 144 yards rushing this season, thanked Cook for what he said.
“I don’t like to say that I’m too much bigger than him, but I’ll take the compliment,” he said. “But we’re both that two-headed monster.”
Mattison never has started an NFL game. When an injured Cook sat out the final two games last season, Mattison also was hurt. If Mattison is needed to start on Sunday, he vows to be ready.
“We’re going to go in there and prepare and go out there and get after it,” Mattison said.
The only downer for Mattison at Seattle came on his final carry. With two minutes left and the Vikings up 26-21, he was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Seahawks’ 6-yard line. Russell Wilson then drove the Seahawks 94 yards for the winning touchdown.
“It’s something we have to get past, and looking forward to Atlanta now,” Mattison said.
If Cook sits out, it will be for the 19th time in 53 career NFL Game. He sat out the final 12 as a rookie in 2017 due a torn ACL, missed five games in 2018 because of a hamstring injury and last year sat out two games, and nearly two additional halves, with chest and shoulder injuries.
“I didn’t come into this thing trying to hold anything back,” Cook said. “I’m going out there and playing a thousand percent every play, flying around. Whatever comes with the game, comes with the game. I’ve been here before (with injuries), and it’s just another little bump in the road.”
Cook did say he learned something in 2018 when he was in and out of the lineup with his hamstring issue, and perhaps played at times when not fully healthy.
“You kind of have to let your body naturally heal,” he said.
With that in mind, there’s a good chance Cook won’t play against the Falcons, and his understudy will take over.
“To have somebody to back up Dalvin that that’s physical and that strong and that big and able to run like that is great to have,” said wide receiver Justin Jefferson.