Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter has a herniated disc in his neck and is unlikely to return to action in Week 4 – which is when he's first eligible to return from injured reserve – according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Hunter is "regaining strength and getting closer to returning" from the injury, but it sounds like the Vikings may have to wait a while longer to get him back on the field.
To me, the most notable part of Pelissero's tweet is the last sentence: "Optimism still high that he’s back this season." That would seem to indicate that not only is Hunter likely to miss Week 4, but this could potentially be an absence that extends for another month or even longer.
Hunter was placed on IR by the Vikings back on September 9th. Up to that point, all Mike Zimmer would say about the mysterious injury that kept him out of training camp was that it was a "tweak." I'd say a herniated disc in his neck is a bit more than a tweak. Since then, he's been seen doing rehab work on a side field during the team's practices.
If the winless Vikings continue to lose games and stray further and further from playoff contention in 2020, it'll be interesting to see if the team considers shutting Hunter down for the season. Injuries related to the neck and spine are serious matters, and at the very least, I doubt Hunter will be rushed back before he's 100 percent ready.
If and when he's cleared to return, I'm sure Hunter will want to play regardless of how the team is doing. We have yet to see the Vikings' newly-created duo of explosive young pass rushers in Hunter and Yannick Ngakoue in action.
Hunter, 25, is arguably the Vikings' best overall player. He has 54.5 career sacks in five years, becoming the youngest player to 50 sacks in NFL history. That includes 29 sacks over the past two seasons, with Hunter emerging as one of the most physically dominant edge rushers in the league.
In his absence, the Vikings have turned to a rotation including Ngakoue, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jalyn Holmes, and rookie D.J. Wonnum at defensive end.
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