Vikings' dilemma: How much is too much for Dalvin Cook?

EAGAN, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings are facing a bit of a dilemma with running back Dalvin Cook.

In Monday's 19-13 win over the Chicago Bears, Cook handled 30 carries -- matching a career-high he set two weeks ago in a win over the Packers -- and added four catches. That's a season-high in total plays that went through Cook, who leads the NFL with 1,143 yards from scrimmage and ranks third behind the Titans' Derrick Henry and Raiders' Josh Jacobs with 194 touches.

The Vikings lead the NFL in designed-run percentage (49.2%) and are calling Cook's number on 33.2% of plays, the second-highest mark in the league. That's the formula the self-proclaimed run-first team has leaned heavily on during its three-game win streak. And if you ask Cook, sustaining that rate won't be an issue.

"Yeah, my body feels good after that one," Cook said. "I'm ready to play another one. It's just that time of the year where you get into the flow of just going out there and playing. You stay in your routine, get your mind back ready to go and with me, it's about getting my body back in line to take those touches.

"Because I know mentally I'm there. I'm checked in and I'm ready to go, and it's just about getting my body ready to go. I can take them. I'm ready."

Of course when it comes to Cook, injury concerns loom in the background. Cook, who signed a five-year extension worth $63 million in August, missed a game and a half earlier this season due to a groin injury and dealt with an ACL tear his rookie year, a hamstring ailment in 2018 and a banged up shoulder last season.

Cook has repeatedly defended his health issues and leans on the strength he prioritized building this offseason.

And it appears he'll have a significant say in how much the Vikings are able to use him over their next seven games.

"A lot of that depends on Dalvin as we continue to move forward," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "We take pretty good care of him during the week. Each situation's a little bit different. Last week was a little bit more of a physicality game with the front that they had. We'll continue to look at all those things, look to get [backup running back] Alexander [Mattison] in there a little bit more.

"But when the game gets on the line in situations like that, he doesn't want to not be out there either, with his guys. I think that's a lot, when I say a lot of it depends on him, it does."

Mattison, who was drafted in 2019, saw his heaviest workload in Seattle following Cook's second-half injury. Against the Seahawks, Mattison ran 20 times for 112 yards and caught three passes for 24 yards. He started in place of Cook against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 18 but had 26 rushing yards on 10 carries. In Minnesota's last three wins, Mattison has been used to spell Cook in certain situations, but he is still averaging just under 23 touches per game.

Given Cook is on pace to eclipse more than 300 touches this season, it's possible the Vikings will look to preserve him by turning to his backups when the game allows. But with a few more wins needed to truly emerge as a playoff contender, deviating from what got the Vikings back in contention may be difficult.