Cook’s return a needed boost to secondary

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook was acquitted of all charges against him on Tuesday stemming from an October arrest after an alleged altercation with his girlfriend and was free to rejoin the team.

“We respect the legal process and the decision regarding Chris Cook,” the team said in a release. “We have also thoroughly considered Chris’ situation and how he has approached this matter. We will meet with Chris in the near future and believe he deserves the opportunity to rejoin our organization.”

Cook was charged with domestic abuse/strangulation and third-degree assault after he was accused of choking his girlfriend, Chantel Baker, when the two got into a fight on Oct. 22.  Cook allegedly became angered because Baker had been in contact with an ex-boyfriend.

Cook was inactive for Minnesota’s game against the Green Bay Packers the following day. He was then suspended by the Vikings for two weeks before being reinstated to the 53-man roster. But he was told to stay away from the team’s facilities while his legal situation was being resolved. Cook was paid his regular contract despite being inactive the final eight weeks of the season.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was waiting to see how the case was handled in court before making any decisions on Cook’s status with the team. On Wednesday, while announcing the signing of free agent John Carlson, Spielman said: “We’re waiting to let the legal process take its course and we’ll go from there.”

While Cook was found not guilty, he could still face punishment from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under the league’s personal conduct policy. However, that doesn’t sound likely.

“We will review the facts, but we do not expect league discipline in this matter,” said league spokesman Greg Aiello.

Cook, the team’s second-round pick in the 2010 draft, dealt with injuries during his rookie season but was beginning to turn into the tall, rangy cover cornerback the team thought it selected with the No. 34 overall pick two years ago. Cook played the first six games of the 2011 season, starting three, and had 19 tackles before he was inactive for game against Green Bay.

His return will help a struggling secondary that has only 34-year old Antoine Winfield, coming off a neck injury, Asher Allen, Marcus Sherels and Brandon Burton. Minnesota tied a league-low with eight interceptions last season.

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