General Manager Rick Spielman is hopeful Danielle Hunter will only need the minimum stay on injured reserve — three weeks — to return from a reported neck injury that has sidelined him since Aug. 16.
Hunter, the 25-year-old star Vikings defensive end placed on IR this week, was working on a side field with strength coach Mark Uyeyama during the open portion of Thursday’s practice. He hadn’t moved much during sessions in front of reporters before jogging Thursday.
During an interview with SiriusXM radio, Spielman said the Vikings will have to “reassess” Hunter’s injury to know how soon he can actually return. Spielman has not spoken with local reporters since Aug. 3.
“We’re very optimistic,” the GM said. “We’ll see how it plays out — that Danielle hopefully will be able to be back after the three weeks. But we’ll reassess where we’re at with the injury and make a decision from there.”
Spielman added that the Aug. 30 trade to acquire ex-Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue came together “very quickly” with a renegotiated one-year, $12 million contract.
He did not answer whether the Ngakoue trade was expedited because of Hunter’s absence. Defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, who had seven sacks playing in a part-time role last season, is expected to start in Hunter’s absence.
“We’ve never panicked around here and we never will,” co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said Thursday via videoconference. “It’s not a big deal on my part. It’s not with the players. We just go play and expect the guy that’s going to go in there to play to give us his best effort.”
The earliest Hunter can return to practice is Monday, Sept. 28, which is the start of Week 4, and the earliest he can play is Oct. 4 in Houston. Hunter, who has appeared in 78 of 80 NFL regular-season games so far, is handling his first extended absence well, per Patterson.
“He’s the same old Danielle,” Patterson said. “Smile on his face, happy-go-lucky. He’s good.”
No active players were listed on the Vikings injury report Thursday.
Ngakoue’s sense of urgency
Ngakoue has been “better than I’ve ever dreamed,” said Patterson ahead of the defensive end’s fourth practice with the Vikings. Coaches have eased Ngakoue into practices with more reps every day, and Sunday’s opener against the Packers will test how much he’s picked up.
There is a “big difference,” according to Patterson, between the Jaguars and Vikings defenses.
“Not just the terminology being different,” Patterson said, “but how we ask our guys to play is so much different, too. I think that’s the part of him having a sense of urgency to put in the time and effort.”
Preseason balancing act
If the NFL were to permanently reduce the preseason, tight end Kyle Rudolph is one veteran player who sees the lost benefits — like fewer chances for younger guys and, frankly, more work for older guys. Without exhibitions, the Vikings had 17 practices in 22 days before roster cutdowns.
“You also have to be careful what you wish for,” Rudolph said. “The day of the preseason game you get warmed up and maybe take 10, 12, 16 snaps, so that’s essentially another day off, and then the day after the game is a day off.”
Packers get Turner back
Packers right tackle and Shoreview native Billy Turner (knee) returned to practice as a limited participant. Packers coach Matt LaFleur has said his team is in a “holding pattern” to see if Turner’s health would allow him to start Sunday vs. the Vikings.
Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis (rest) and linebacker Randy Ramsey (groin) did not practice Thursday; Turner, safety Raven Greene (quad) and defensive lineman Montravius Adams (toe) were limited; linebacker Oren Burks (groin) was a full participant.