Danielle Hunter tries not to lose sight of life’s big picture as he continues focusing on football’s finest details.
So as he is holing up in Minnesota amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vikings Pro Bowl defensive end has been practicing his pass rushing nuances while cutting a check to Robbinsdale’s North Memorial Health Hospital to help stockpile personal protective equipment for front line workers.
“That was very important because I have a grandma in New York who’s a nurse,” Hunter said Wednesday during a teleconference with Twin Cities media. “Of course, I’m worried. Every day, I get an update about what’s going on over there.
“We call and check up on her every day to make sure she does the right things and is all right. But she’s been doing good. I also have an uncle who is a policeman over there. It’s just crazy knowing that they’re in something like that.”
Hunter followed teammate Dalvin Cook’s lead by donating his $34,628 “NFL Madden” check to North Memorial. That’s how much NFL players active in 2017 and ’18 got when the new collective bargaining agreement was settled and the union dispensed the Madden video game series money from its work stoppage fund.
Hunter’s hope in donating to North Memorial was to help Minnesota be more prepared than New York, which has suffered worst of all during the pandemic.
“I feel like it’s better to be prepared in a time of uncertainty like this than to not be prepared,” he said. “And I feel like here in Minnesota we’re very lucky to have the least amount of patients that we have now compared to New York. … I also heard that the Vikings are trying to do more with Polaris right now to get more funds up for supplies for hospitals in the area. … So I feel it’s better to be prepared than not be prepared.”
As for football, Hunter said he’s staying in shape even though he’s having to go about it a different way without being in the gym.
He still works with a trainer but does his conditioning and strength work outdoors and within social distancing requirements. He also works with a movement coach on his footwork and pass rushing fundamentals.
“The key is staying in shape,” he said, “and being ready to go when this is over.”
When the Vikings finally reassemble, they will be short eight players who contributed to last year’s fifth-ranked scoring defense. That includes half of the starting defensive line and the top three cornerbacks.
“It’s a business,” Hunter said with a shrug. “You’re not going to keep everybody forever.”
Hunter said he trusts coach Mike Zimmer and new co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson to build a new defense that will be led by new leaders such as himself, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and 2019 backup lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo, whom Hunter predicted would rise to the challenge of replacing Everson Griffen.
“[Change] is just a part of life,” Hunter said. “We’re implementing our change now.”
A 25-year-old with 54½ career sacks, Hunter is famously known as a player driven to avoid complacency.
“A lot of people tend to forget the little things when they get far in life,” he said. “I’ve been taught not to do that.”
So as he shelters away from his coaches, Hunter said he’s working on his “power steps,” his hand placements, eye placements, “and all that.”
He also reflected back on this year’s Pro Bowl and what he learned while sitting down with fellow NFC pass rushers Chandler Jones and Za’Darius Smith in Orlando.
“We talked about moves we saw that we used,” Hunter said. “Chandler said he saw me use moves, and I said I saw him use moves. Once I get back into my form, my pass-rushing form, I’ll try some of those. I’ll definitely be trying new moves down the line.”
Whenever that time comes, who knows. But Hunter says he will be ready.