Danielle Hunter has been sidelined since Aug. 16 and has missed 11 straight practices, leading Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to acknowledge Sunday the team is “being cautious” with its injured star defensive end.
Zimmer has only described Hunter’s injury as a “tweak,” and claimed Sunday he doesn’t know when Hunter is expected to return to practice. The timeline remains unclear as Hunter, who became the youngest player in NFL history last season to reach 50 career sacks, has not been seen doing any physical rehabilitation with trainers during practices.
The sixth-year veteran has been limited to assisting the Vikings’ many young defensive linemen during drills, and not moving very quickly while doing so.
“We’re being cautious with him,” Zimmer said, “which, rightfully so.”
Zimmer alluded to Hunter’s inability to move much right now, saying conditioning will be the biggest factor in judging how quickly he can be ready for a game. The Vikings open the season in two weeks on Sept. 13 vs. Green Bay.
“It’d depend more on conditioning than anything,” Zimmer said. “It won’t take him long to get ready to play football, even if we just put him in on third downs or pass-rush situations. He’s been in great shape. He looks great. I don’t think it’d take long.”
Hunter’s prolonged absence had highlighted the Vikings’ questionable depth at defensive end, before general manager Rick Spielman swung a trade Sunday morning for former Jaguars star edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue.