Vikings superstar defensive end Danielle Hunter had successful surgery on Tuesday to fix a herniated disc in his neck. He is officially out for the remainder of the 2020 season and will eventually begin the rehab process with the goal of being ready to go next year.
"Surgery was a success," Hunter wrote in posts to Twitter and Instagram. "I appreciate all the support during this process and want to give thanks to everyone who has helped me out. Now let’s get back to work. #2021."
Announcing the news on Wednesday morning, Mike Zimmer defended his infamous use of the word "tweak" to describe an injury that wound up costing Hunter the entire season.
"You know, when you guys give me crap about this thing being a ‘tweak’, when it all started, he woke up and thought he slept on his neck wrong," Zimmer said. "So that’s why it was a tweak.”
Zimmer said the Vikings found out it was more serious than that when Hunter got an MRI. He's not exactly sure how or when it happened. “It was hardly anything," Zimmer said. "When we looked back at the tape, I don't know whatever it was, a week later, it could have happened to anybody at any point."
It sounds like the Vikings expect Hunter to make a full recovery and be good to go for the 2021 season.
However, there's still the topic of his contract. When reporting that Hunter would undergo season-ending surgery, NFL Network's Ian Rapaport included something interesting at the end of his tweet. "MIN has a decision this offseason: Make Hunter the highest-paid defender in football or trade him," Rapaport said. "Have we seen the last of him in a Vikings uniform?"
Here's what I said about those two sentences a week ago:
Why that's so interesting is because Hunter is under contract through the 2023 season. A major insider like Rapaport obviously knows that, so perhaps he worded the tweet that way with input from Hunter's agent. When healthy, the 25-year-old LSU product is one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL, having become the youngest player to ever reach 50 career sacks. The five-year contract extension that he signed back in 2018, prior to really blowing up, is a massive bargain for the Vikings.
So yes, Hunter deserves a new deal that pays him what he's worth. But would the Vikings really give him an extension that makes him the highest-paid defensive player in the league right as he's returning from surgery on his neck? And on the flip side, would Hunter hold out and potentially demand a trade if the Vikings refused to do so? There's a lot of risk that would come with doling out a massive contract like that without seeing if he can be the same player post-surgery, and it doesn't seem like Hunter would have much leverage in that situation.
Those are conversations for a later date. For now, I just wish Hunter the best in his recovery process and hope to see him on the field as a Viking in 2021.
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