EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings have placed defensive end Danielle Hunter on injured reserve, the team announced Wednesday.
A source told ESPN that Hunter has a neck injury.
Hunter has not practiced since Aug. 14, the team’s first official practice. The Pro Bowler has been sidelined for nearly four weeks with what coach Mike Zimmer referred to as a “tweak.” He will not be listed on Wednesday’s injury report given the move to injured reserve, where he must remain for at least three games.
Hunter did not practice Wednesday but showed up dressed in sweats and his jersey to go through rehabilitation exercises and stretching while the team went through individual drills.
Sources told ESPN last month that the Vikings kept Hunter out of practice for precautionary reasons but did not expect the defensive end to miss extended time. Minnesota traded with the Jacksonville Jaguars for Yannick Ngakoue on Aug. 30 to start at right defensive end opposite Hunter.
Jalyn Holmes and Eddie Yarbrough took reps throughout training camp at left defensive end while Hunter was sidelined, but it’s possible the Vikings opt to start Ifeadi Odenigbo in Hunter’s place against the Green Bay Packers. Odenigbo played at right defensive end throughout camp and was primed to start there until the team traded for Ngakoue.
Before practice Wednesday, linebacker Eric Kendricks discussed the need for defensive players to step up in Hunter’s absence.
“There’s going to be a lot of in-game adjustments that we have to go through and things like that, but we have trust in our guys,” Kendricks said, “and yeah, a guy like Danielle, he brings a whole other type of game in and it’s going to be hard to replace a guy like that, but we have guys who are hungry and want to step up too.”
Hunter notched 14.5 sacks in both 2018 and 2019, which earned him back-to-back Pro Bowl bids. Last December, he became the fastest player to reach 50.0 career sacks, at age 25.
He can return to practice as early as Sept. 28, and the first game he will be eligible to play in will be Oct. 4 at Houston.
The Vikings also announced the protection of kicker Chase McLaughlin, who was signed to the practice squad this week.