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Vikings QB Kirk Cousins holding out hope for Dalvin Cook return: 'Maybe there's an outside chance'

Six seasons and 5,993 rushing yards later, Dalvin Cook has been moved on from the Minnesota Vikings.

Cook's quarterback for the past five years is still holding out hope that there's a chance of a reunion before the 2023 season commences, however.

"I'm excited to see where he goes, I'll always be pulling for him, and I'm kind of optimistically hoping we'll get him back -- who knows," Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said Wednesday, via team transcript. "But maybe there's an outside chance. We'll see."

It is highly doubtful Cook will be back with the Vikings anytime soon. His release was seen coming for months, and it's unlikely the Pro Bowl back would want to return to the Land of 10,000 Lakes at a price his now-former franchise could afford.

Regardless, Cousins -- who also said he's not expecting to have contract talks with the Vikings until March -- went out of his way to open his news conference with a tip of the helmet to his longtime teammate.

"I wanted to take the time just to acknowledge the respect I have for him as a player and a person and the difference he's made for our team," Cousins said. "His toughness. His consistency. I think he's been to four straight Pro Bowls, so that says it all right there."

Cook's release came to be as it saved $9 million on the salary cap this season for the Vikings. It was also that latest wave in the Vikings' sea change of an offseason. Minnesota has released linebacker Eric Kendricks and wide receiver Adam Thielen, and traded pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, among other franchise-altering transactions prior to parting ways with Cook.

"I think there's always going to be change. So, you expect it every season," Cousins said. "I think people you've played a lot of snaps with -- like a Dalvin, like an Adam -- can be a little more difficult, but you can also point to some guys who may not have been back that are, like a Garrett [Bradbury] or an Alex [Mattison]. So that's also exciting to have a lot of stability there, too. The O-line is a group I'm very familiar with. Even losing Adam, you look at the receivers and you feel like you're throwing to guys you know, with the tight ends. So, there's some consistency there, too, and it'll always be that way. But I think we've got an experienced group on offense, which is a real positive."

The aforementioned Mattison has garnered the confidence of his teammates and coaches, alike.

Still, Mattison's largely been used as a fill-in for Cook during the former's four seasons with Minnesota. Mattison is actually coming off a 2022 campaign in which he had a career-low 89 touches as Cook turned in the first full season of his NFL career.

Head coach Kevin O'Connell is of the belief that Mattison has shown enough in his Vikings tenure to take the RB1 job and run with it, though.

"I feel really good about our running back room, and Alex Mattison is a huge reason why," O'Connell said Tuesday, via team transcript. "I think he's proven that he can, whether over the past few years when he's stepped in there and handling a really good workload and producing, and also just in our short-term together, his ability to handle the roles and responsibilities of that position in our offense. I feel great about where Alex is at. The next step in his career is obviously just a little bit more consistent opportunities, which obviously we hope to provide for him."

Cook's departure is the latest change to a Vikings roster responsible for a surprising 2022 NFC North title run. However, Cousins' future with the club beyond 2023 -- the final year of his current contract -- remains uncertain, as well.

And any certainty doesn't figure to come before the upcoming season has concluded.

"I think we'll probably talk about the contract next March," Cousins said, "and until then just focus on this season and the job to do right now."

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