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Vikings CB Mike Hughes' Neck Injury Could Be Season-Ending

This would be a brutal blow for the third-year corner out of UCF.
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Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes, the team's first-round pick in 2018, could potentially be shut down for the remainder of this season with a neck injury, according to ESPN's Courtney Cronin.

"It doesn't sound like Mike Hughes' neck injury is showing signs of improvement," Cronin tweeted. "Hughes did not practice Wednesday and I'm told the Vikings are considering shutting him down for the season, meaning an IR designation could be coming soon."

Update: Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune is reporting that Hughes' injury is unlikely to end his season. "Hughes likely won’t play Sunday, though a source familiar with the situation said the 2018 first-round pick’s injury won’t end his season," Goessling wrote. "There was no exact timetable for Hughes’ return. His 2019 season ended with a cracked vertebra he sustained in Week 17, though coach Mike Zimmer has said Hughes’ current neck injury is not related to the one he had last year."

Update, part two: Hughes has officially be placed on IR. He can't return until Week 11 at the earliest, but it seems like it could be longer than that.

This would be another brutal blow in an injury-marred career for Hughes, who had a ton of hype and upside coming out of UCF. A torn ACL limited him to 20 games in his first two seasons, and now a recurring neck injury may end his 2020 campaign.

Issues with his neck first popped up at the end of last season, as Hughes was placed on injured reserve following Week 17, missing both of the Vikings' playoff games. It was later revealed that he had broken a vertebra in his neck. Hughes was healthy to start this season, but then missed Weeks 3 and 4 due to more neck problems. He returned to action but re-injured his neck early in the Week 6 loss to the Falcons, and now it sounds like there's a chance he's done for the year.

It's unclear what the exact issue is, but it's fair to assume that all of these neck injuries are at least somewhat related to one another, which is concerning for the long-term future of his football career.

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Hughes' breakout 2017 season at UCF turned him into a highly-touted prospect. He had 11 passes defended, four interceptions, and four total touchdowns (one pick-six, two kick returns, and one punt return) for the undefeated Knights. The Vikings drafted him No. 30 overall, two spots in front of 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson.

In his NFL debut, Hughes returned an interception for a touchdown against Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. However, the ACL injury ended his rookie season after six games. 

Hughes returned in Week 3 of 2019 and had an up-and-down second year as the Vikings' No. 4 corner and primary punt returner. He finished with nine pass breakups and an interception, showing flashes of the athleticism, playmaking ability, and physicality that made him a first-round pick. However, he also struggled in coverage at times, including a game against the Cowboys where he was picked on by Dak Prescott and charged with 11 catches allowed for 154 yards.

Having seemingly recovered from the neck injury, Hughes has showed more flashes of talent this season as the most experienced member of the Vikings' revamped cornerback unit. In Week 5, he made what briefly appeared to be a game-saving play by punching the ball out of DK Metcalf's arms in the end zone on the penultimate play of the game.

You have to feel for Hughes, who dealt with the ACL tear and now is being kept off the field by these issues with his neck.

But for the Vikings, a decision is coming up. They need to choose whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option by May 2021, and that won't be an easy call considering his injuries and inconsistent play. If he doesn't return to the field for the rest of this season, it would be difficult to imagine the Vikings picking up that fifth-year option.

The Vikings are super thin at cornerback right now. Hughes might be out for the year, Cameron Dantzler was just placed on Reserve/COVID-19, and both Holton Hill and Kris Boyd have missed multiple games in a row due to injury.

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