When the Vikings traded for Yannick Ngakoue at the end of August, general manager Rick Spielman claimed on Thursday, they hoped they’d have Ngakoue and Hunter on the field at the same time this season. because “we didn’t know where Danielle was at the time.”
Now, the Vikings won’t have either player on the field this season.
Sources confirmed Hunter has decided to have surgery on a herniated disc in his neck, an option he has been mulling since he visited a specialist in New York earlier this month. It will end Hunter’s season just before he turns 26 next week.
Spielman, speaking to reporters on Thursday for the first time since Aug. 3 and talking minutes before news came out about Hunter’s choice, claimed not to know what Hunter had decided to do about an injury coach Mike Zimmer has still only called a “tweak.
“We’ll let you know if there’s anything new that develops on that front,” Spielman said.
Hunter didn’t practice after participating in a non-padded session on Aug. 14, and the Vikings placed him on injured reserve minutes before issuing their first injury report of the year on Sept. 9, in part so they wouldn’t have to list Hunter’s injury with any specificity. Hunter posted a picture on Instagram from Times Square on Oct. 2, and Zimmer confirmed on Oct. 3 Hunter was getting a second opinion, without offering any more details.
On Thursday, NFL Network reported Hunter could demand an offseason trade if he’s not made the highest-paid defensive end in the NFL; the Vikings gave him a five-year, $72 million deal in 2018 that now makes him the league’s 18th-highest paid edge rusher, but he is signed through 2023 and would be making his demands after a season where he didn’t play. Sources have said the Vikings have little interest in getting into a contract dispute with Hunter, who’s been a star for their defense and a model citizen off the field. The team could also clear cap space by dealing additional veterans following its trade of Ngakoue to the Ravens on Thursday.