The Minnesota Vikings placed defensive end Danielle Hunter on injured reserve on Wednesday. Hunter did not practice on Wednesday and the Vikings brass has been pretty tight-lipped on the ailment that has kept their star pass rusher out of the majority of training camp. While the team is keeping Hunter’s injury close to the vest, Courtney Cronin of ESPN reports that it is related to a neck injury he sustained. The move to injured reserve now means that Hunter will miss at least three games, which is one of the changes to the IR rules the NFL has made for this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hunter has been a staple along Minnesota’s front seven ever since the club selected him in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of LSU. Over the last two seasons specifically, he has blossomed into one of the game’s elite pass rushers, earning back-to-back Pro Bowl nods. In 16 games (all starts) last season, Hunter totaled 14.5 sacks, 15 tackles for a loss, and a career-high three forced fumbles. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder also played in 80.7% of the defensive snaps — fifth-most on the team in 2019.

“A guy like Danielle, he brings a whole other type of game in. It’s going to be hard to a replace a guy like that, but we have guys that also are hungry and want to step up too,” Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks told reporters Wednesday

Luckily for Minnesota, the club did recently acquire fellow defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in a trade with the Jaguars, so he should be able to help provide some relief while Hunter is sidelined. As for someone who may be able to take that step up that Kendricks noted, Ifeadi Odenigbo, who totaled seven sacks last year, could see an uptick in playing time to start the year. 

Over the first three weeks of the season, the Vikings will take on the Packers, Colts and Titans. The earliest game that Hunter may be able to suit up for is Week 4 against the Texans in Houston. 

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