Although operating at less than full strength, Amari Cooper will be on the field Sunday night.
According to multiple reports, the Dallas Cowboys‘ star wide receiver is expected to gut through his most recent injury —a left knee bruise — and start against the Minnesota Vikings at AT&T Stadium.
The word came Sunday morning via ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
“Cowboys’ WR Amari Cooper, listed as questionable for Sunday night due to knee and ankle injuries, is expected to play vs. the Vikings, per source,” Schefter tweeted.
“#Cowboys WR Amari Cooper (knee, ankle) is expected to play tonight against the #Vikings, source said. He’s dealing with a bruised knee, but there is no structural damage,” Rapoport tweeted.
This has been the thought after the Pro Bowl wideout was limited in practice Wednesday and Friday (he sat out Thursday’s session). Cooper, officially listed as questionable, banged his knee in Monday’s victory over the Giants, adding to a laundry list of maladies that includes heel, ankle and quad issues.
Cooper underwent a precautionary MRI on Wednesday which revealed no damage to his ligaments or tendons, preventing an extended absence. He termed his hurt knee as being “manageable” and all but assured he’d be in the starting lineup for the Week 10 tilt.
“I mean, I want to play, you know what I’m saying, to be able to put up numbers to help my team win,” Cooper said Thursday, via the team’s official website. “Whatever I’ve got to do to do that, I’m cool with it.”
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Background on Knee Injury
Cooper briefly exited Monday’s win over the Giants in the first half and was inspected on the sideline by the training staff, leading some to believe he’d be ruled out. He wasn’t, and he went on to lead Dallas in receiving. Crisis averted — or so it was thought.
“I just went up for a ball and came down on it the wrong way,” Cooper said Thursday, per the team’s official website.
Speaking after the game, Cooper admitted that he initially injured his knee in last week’s practice and Monday’s incident was a reaggravation. He eventually returned to action, due in part, Cooper quipped, to the #BlackCat that stole the show at MetLife Stadium.
He finished with four receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown — a 45-yard catch-and-run in which he dusted New York’s secondary, effectively cementing victory. Cooper paces the 5-3 Cowboys with 42 grabs for 701 yards and six TDs through eight games.
Matchup vs. Vikings
Good as he is, despite being hampered, Cooper might have his work cut out facing a Vikings squad that ranks in the top 10 in the four major defensive categories: points allowed (fourth), total yards allowed (eighth), pass defense (eighth) and run defense (eighth).
Amari should draw the coverage of top cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a two-time Pro Bowler who hasn’t performed up to potential this season. Through nine games for 6-3 Minnesota, Rhodes ranks as Pro Football Focus’ No. 107 CB among 127 qualifiers.
Cooper has squared off with the Vikings just once in his five-year NFL career. That occurred in 2015, his rookie season with the Oakland Raiders, when he totaled 79 yards on five catches in a 30-14 loss.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL