EAGAN, Minn. — Danielle Hunter hasn't played a snap yet in 2020, and it's now a certainty he won't see the field for the rest of the season.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer confirmed Wednesday that the star defensive end underwent season-ending neck surgery and will not play at all in 2020.
"Danielle Hunter had successful neck surgery yesterday," Zimmer said. "Looking forward to his rehab … [the surgery] went well."
Zimmer said he expects Hunter to make a full recovery and be ready for offseason football activities.
Hunter took part in a non-padded practice at Aug. 14 on Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center and was one of the most dominant players on the field.
Zimmer said the team went back and looked through practice film to better understand the injury.
"It was hardly anything," Zimmer said. "When we went back at looked at the tape a week later … it could happen to anybody at any point."
Zimmer said soon after that Hunter's injury was a "tweak," but Hunter never returned to football activities.
"He woke up and thought he slept on his neck wrong," Zimmer said, "so that's why it was a 'tweak.' "
Zimmer said the team realized the severity of Hunter's injury after he underwent an MRI during training camp.
Hunter was added to Injured Reserve with his undisclosed injury a few days before the Vikings Week 1 game against the Packers. Hunter has been eligible to return from IR since Week 4.
Zimmer said on Oct. 14 that Hunter was "mulling his options" regarding his injury. On Oct. 2, Zimmer said Hunter was in New York getting a second opinion on his injury.
Hunter has evolved into one of the league's top pass rushers since being a third-round pick out of LSU in 2015.
The 25-year-old has 54.5 career sacks in 78 career games, 49 of which have been starts. In December of the 2019 season, Hunter became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 career sacks.
Hunter had 6.0 sacks as a rookie in 2015 before breaking out with 12.5 sacks in 2016. His sack total in 2017 was 7.0 before Hunter posted 14.5 sacks (and made the Pro Bowl) in 2018 and 2019.
Hunter's season-ending surgery means the Vikings will rely on the likes of Ifeadi Odenigbo, rookie D.J. Wonnum, Jalyn Holmes and newcomer Jordan Brailford at defensive end.