Tagged in: Danielle hunter

Minnesota Vikings DE Danielle Hunter out for season with torn pectoral muscle

An MRI revealed that Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter tore a pectoral muscle on Sunday and will miss the remainder of the campaign, coach Mike Zimmer announced Monday.

Hunter suffered what was initially classified as a shoulder injury in the second quarter of Minnesota’s 20-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. He was downgraded from questionable to out at the beginning of the third quarter and was not seen on the sideline in the second half.

Hunter, 27, is tied for 10th in the NFL with six sacks through seven games and played at least 83% of the defensive snaps in each of Minnesota’s first six matches before its Week 8 game with Dallas.

“I don’t think you replace him,” Zimmer said. “He’s one of a kind. It’s unfortunate that we’re going to miss the next half of the season with him, and all of last year. So, he’s a great kid and he’ll do a good job in his rehab and he’ll be ready to go.”

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Hunter missed the 2020 season with a neck injury that required him to have surgery last year.

He missed the majority of Minnesota’s offseason program while rehabbing his neck before being cleared to return to practice in August.

“I can’t imagine. I really can’t imagine what he’s going through,” Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen stated. “He rehabbed his neck to get back strong and then he comes back and something like this happens to him.

It can be very frustrating, and I know that he’s frustrated right now. But he’s got to just pick his head up and fight back just like he did last year, and it’s devastating for our football team losing one of our star players. It really hurts.”

The Vikings reworked Hunter’s contract ahead of mandatory minicamp to give the defensive end $5.6 million of his $12.15 million 2021 base salary as a signing bonus. The restructure also called for an $18 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2022 league year.

Considering the nature of Hunter’s season-ending injury, it’s not likely the Vikings will pick up his option, thus foreshadowing a reworked deal or release next March.

Hunter had 54.5 sacks through his first five NFL seasons, becoming the fastest player ever to reach 50 sacks after notching double-digit-sack seasons in 2018 and 2019 when he earned back-to-back Pro Bowl honors.

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Minnesota Vikings bring back DT Sheldon Richardson

The Minnesota Vikings continue to prioritize their pass rush during mandatory minicamp.

One day after the team and defensive end Danielle Hunter agreed to a reworked contract for 2021, the Vikings brought back defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a one-year, $3.6 million deal with incentives that could elevate the value to $4.35 million, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Richardson, who played with the Vikings during the 2018 campaign, said he was approached by Minnesota several weeks ago with an offer and waited to sign until Tuesday after not working out a deal to return to Cleveland Browns, where he played 2019-20.

“You know, I started something there. Honestly, just couldn’t come to an agreement with what I wanted from Cleveland,” Richardson said. “And me being cool with the organization here and knowing everything with what Zim [coach Mike Zimmer] and Coach Dre [defensive line coach Andre Patterson] bring to the table for me … they put me in position to make plays earlier in my career. It was a perfect fit.”

The Browns released Richardson in April in a move that created $11 million in salary-cap space. He started 31 matches in Cleveland and registered 4.5 sacks during the 2020 season.

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This is the second time Richardson has signed a one-year contract with Minnesota.

In 2018, the 2013 first-round pick inked an $8 million deal with the Vikings and proceeded to notch 47 pressures and five sacks that season. That performance helped him earn a three-year, $36 million contract with the Browns as a free agent in 2019.

But this time around, Richardson doesn’t view his contract as a prove-it deal to earn another big payday.

“I’m proven,” Richardson said. “I’ve proven my talent last year, years ago and pretty much every year I’ve played in the league. The way the business works, they hold you five days before the draft and there’s no more money in free agency. You’ve got to take what they hand out.”

After concluding with a franchise-low 23 sacks in 2020, shoring up several areas along the defensive line has been a priority for Minnesota this offseason. The Vikings signed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to a two-year, $21 million contract in March.

Although Tomlinson is set to occupy the three-technique spot opposite nose tackle Michael Pierce, Richardson’s athleticism and physical tools will help Minnesota upgrade its interior pass rush.

“I get in where I fit in, simple as that,” Richardson said. “This will be the first year where I’ve not started, so I’m just getting in where I fit in.”

Richardson, 30, played primarily as a three-technique in Cleveland but has played several positions throughout his eight-year career, starting out as a defensive end with the New York Jets before being moved to outside linebacker.

Playing other positions on the D-line is something Richardson said he’s willing to do if needed. “It’s as simple as that. I don’t mind it,” he said.

“I’ve played outside linebacker before in this league, so I really don’t mind it at all. And I was 330 when I did that. I’m 286 right now and feeling good. Like I said, just trying to get back in football shape and let the chips fall where they [may].”

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Minnesota Vikings’ Danielle Hunter to have season ending neck surgery

The Vikings will forge through the remainder of the campaign without their top two pass-rushers, one of whom has not seen the field in 2020.

Hours after Minnesota traded Yannick Ngakoue to the Baltimore Ravens, recouping much of the draft capital they sent to Jacksonville when they acquired the defensive end in August, a league source confirmed to ESPN that Danielle Hunter will undergo season-ending neck surgery to repair a herniated disc.

Hunter’s injury was initially described as a “tweak” by coach Mike Zimmer and was expected to keep him out six to eight weeks, according to a source. The defensive end’s last practice was Aug. 14, the Vikings’ first day of practice during training camp.

Hunter, who had 54.5 sacks through five seasons and back-to-back Pro Bowl honors, agreed to an extension in 2018 and is set to be under contract for the next three seasons. In spite of his production, becoming the fastest player ever to reach 50.0 sacks, Hunter is the 18th-highest-paid defensive end with an average salary of $14.4 million per year.

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It was widely expected that the Vikings would have to restructure Hunter’s contract in the upcoming offseason to better reflect his value. But with the salary cap expected to drop considerably in 2021, Minnesota will soon need to resolve whether they can make Hunter the league’s highest-paid defensive end with a deal north of the $27 million per year paid to Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa, or potentially entertain offers for a trade.

The Vikings have not publicly acknowledged Hunter’s season-ending surgery. Weeks ago, the defensive end traveled to New York to get a second opinion on his neck injury.  Zimmer had said that the visit did not reveal any further clarity about his condition.

“[He’s] still kind of mulling his options, I think,” Zimmer said on Oct. 14.

Earlier Thursday, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman discussed the team’s decision to trade Ngakoue to the Ravens and whether he thought back in August that Minnesota would be able to field both pass-rushers this season, in spite of Hunter’s injury.

“I would say it was more — because we didn’t know where Danielle was at the time — what you envision sometimes unfortunately doesn’t always come true,” Spielman said.

“To have a Yannick and Danielle coming off the edges, to have an Anthony Barr and the way Zim has schematically used him to create pressure on the quarterback so he’s one-on-one with running backs, that’s how we envisioned it. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out like that. You try to readjust with some of the top playmakers you don’t have, especially on the defensive side. That’s what the coaches are doing right now.”

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