Gray wolves run in packs, kill deer and, if a moose can be found, they will kill that, too. It’s their nature.
Football coaches lie about injuries when they can get away with it. In the NFL, training camp is an officially sanctioned lying period for injuries, so coaches do so with vigor. It’s their nature.
Mike Zimmer, about to become the third-longest tenured head coach in the Vikings’ 60 seasons, had himself a party for a month in lying about Danielle Hunter’s absence from the practice field.
Now that the Vikings’ best player is on the injured list for three weeks (minimum), Zimmer’s previous reports on Hunter’s condition stand as the most famous “tweak” in recent Minnesota sports, surpassing Wild owner Craig Leipold’s roster comments on the day he hired Paul Fenton as general manager.
What a lovely relationship that turned out to be, and perhaps the equivalent of Hunter and the Vikings these days … what with Danielle’s historic production, previous durability and yet-to-be adjusted contract.
Hunter’s injury has been reported to be associated with his neck. And “neck” is the worst four-letter word in the NFL, ahead of both “knee” and the short version of what is shouted from the sideline by coaches toward officials.
We now can assume that Zimmer had added incentive for his lying about Hunter’s injury to keep Jacksonville from realizing how needy the Vikings were for a pass rusher as they pursued the discontented Jaguars star, Yannick Ngakoue.
The Vikings landed him for a second-rounder (and possible fifth), rather than a first, and all it took after that was irritating left tackle Riley Reiff by gouging his salary.
As Zimmer still was talking “tweak,” the Packers were facing uncertainty over the availability of right tackle Billy Turner. Green Bay decided not to pay Bryan Bulaga — three years, $30 million from the Chargers — and had moved Turner to tackle to fill the void.
Turner was a limited participant in practice on Thursday and was listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report.
Early this week, the major apprehension in Green Bay was: Can the Packers control both Ngakoue and Hunter?
Now, Green Bay doesn’t have both to control, and it can enter with confidence that outstanding left tackle David Bakhtiari will compete well against Ngakoue.
Which doesn’t mean Rodgers will be hands-free to look for his cache of high-quality receivers, which starts with Davante Adams, and also ends there.
The Packers’ alternatives behind a banged-up Turner are so shaky that either Jalyn Holmes or Ifeadi Odenigbo, the Hunter replacements, could become a Purple star on Sunday.
Turner was a standout at Mounds View High School and North Dakota State. There’s another Minnesota high schooler, Burnsville’s Kamal Martin, who will be a definite loss for the Packers in their first-ever season opener in Minnesota.
Martin became an outstanding Gophers linebacker. As a senior, he was suspended for the 2019 opener (nothing major), and then played extremely well before a knee problem surfaced.
He toughed it out in the loss to Wisconsin but was moving slowly, and had knee surgery in December. Martin missed the NFL Combine and was drafted in the fifth round by the Packers.
It took three days of camp for the defensive coaches to become enamored of Martin. He was anointed as a starter alongside Christian Kirksey as the middle linebackers in a 3-4 defense.
Then, Martin came down with another knee injury, and he’s now on injured reserve — another blow to General Manager Brian Gutekunst’s thin 2020 draft class.
The Packers took heat for drafting Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th pick in the first round. That controversy flared again when Love was listed as No. 3 on the depth chart, behind Rodgers and Eastern Kentucky’s Tim Boyle.
“Why didn’t they take a receiver?” was the outcry on draft day, and continues today.
Answer: The Vikings took the receiver they wanted, LSU’s Justin Jefferson, four spots earlier.
Yup. The Vikings checkmated their rivals again, who somehow stumbled into a 13-3 record last season.
This Packers roster looks vulnerable. Minus Hunter, the Vikings still have more big-time players. The Purple Faithful hasn’t had this much reason to be confident about a home victory over the Packers since … well, the last time: The Monday nighter in The Zygi on Dec. 23, 2019.
Final: Packers 23, Vikings 10.
The Vikings totaled seven first downs and needed garbage time to get over 100 yards. Being back for Year 7 with a contract extension seemed a long way off for Coach Zimmer after that abomination.
But here is Zim, new contract in hand, now trailing only Bud Grant and Dennis Green in seniority, and with his lying-about-injuries game still top-notch at age 64.
And why not? He’s among football coaches, and it’s their nature.
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