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Vikes star DE Hunter achieved for yr with torn pectoral muscle

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Vikings defensive finish Danielle Hunter will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, a devastating lack of the workforce’s finest move rusher for the second straight yr.

Coach Mike Zimmer confirmed the analysis on Monday afternoon, after the two-time Professional Bowl decide had an MRI within the morning.

Hunter was damage within the second quarter of the sport towards Dallas on Sunday evening. He tackled Cowboys operating again Ezekiel Elliott utilizing solely his left arm after a 2-yard acquire early within the second quarter and appeared to stand up slowly from the pile. Hunter performed a lot of the remainder of that drive for Dallas, however was dominated out of the remainder of the sport by halftime. The Cowboys went on to win 20-16.

“I don’t assume you change him. He’s one in every of a sort,” Zimmer mentioned. “It’s unlucky that we’re going to overlook the subsequent half of the season with him, and all of final yr. He’s an awesome child, and he’ll do a superb job in his rehab, and he’ll be able to go.”

Hunter agreed in June to restructure his contract for instant wage cap reduction for the Vikings, who in flip added an $18 million bonus attributable to kick in on March 20 — the fifth day of the subsequent league yr — if he’s on the roster then. He’s unlikely to be again for 2022 at that fee with out a new long-term deal, so this newest harm elevated the likelihood he’ll grow to be a free agent within the spring.

Hunter didn’t play in any respect in 2020 due to a herniated disk in his neck that finally required surgical procedure, after he suffered the fluke harm at first of coaching camp. The third-round 2015 draft pick of LSU, who has lengthy been one of many quickest, fittest and strongest defensive linemen within the NFL, performed in each sport from 2016-19.

“I actually can’t think about what he’s going by means of. He rehabbed his neck to get again sturdy, after which he comes again and one thing like this occurs to him,” defensive finish Everson Griffen mentioned. “It may be very irritating, and I do know that he’s annoyed proper now. However he’s bought to only decide his head up and battle again similar to he did final yr.”

Hunter was the youngest participant to achieve 50 sacks in league historical past, reaching that mark in 2019 shortly after his twenty fifth birthday. He has six of the workforce’s 24 sacks this season.

“We’ve bought to get the younger guys going and get them able to play,” Griffen mentioned. “However shedding Danielle is an enormous blow.’’

The Vikings (3-4) are nonetheless lots susceptible on protection, as Cowboys backup quarterback Cooper Rush revealed on Sunday, however the return of Hunter and Griffen — who re-signed together with his unique workforce after one yr elsewhere — has keyed a resurgence of the sturdy move rush they’ve lengthy leaned on. The Vikings lead the NFL in sacks per move try.

The issue is there’s little depth left at defensive finish, after a commerce that despatched Stephen Weatherly to Denver final week. Griffen and D.J. Wonnum would be the starters in heavy rotation, however Kenny Willekes and Patrick Jones II are the one others on the roster at that place for now.

Willekes, a seventh-round draft decide in 2020, was promoted from the apply squad earlier than the sport on Sunday and made his NFL debut. Jones, a third-rounder out of Pittsburgh this yr, was inactive towards the Cowboys due to a knee harm. Fourth-round decide Janarius Robinson was damage throughout coaching camp and is on injured reserve.

“Willekes performed a bit of bit final evening. He’s been approaching. Pat’s bought some capacity, and he’s been working actual onerous,” Zimmer mentioned. “In order that they’ll get some alternatives now.”

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Extra AP NFL protection: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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CELINE CASTRONUOVO

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