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Kevin O'Connell 'Solution-Oriented' in Dialogue with Danielle Hunter 

EAGAN, Minn. – Danielle Hunter didn't report for Vikings minicamp, but Head Coach Kevin O'Connell remains optimistic he'll remain a key part of the roster.

O'Connell spoke to Twin Cities media members following Minnesota's first of two mandatory minicamp on-field sessions, and he readily addressed the Hunter situation in his opening statement.

"I know a lot of you guys might have some questions regarding Danielle and his absence. The only thing I would just say is I've got all the respect in the world for Danielle as a player, a leader, a person on our team," O'Connell said. "Those situations, you know, I don't want to speak for [General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah], but we feel very strongly about being solution-oriented with everything that comes about.

"We hope to have continued dialogue and have a really positive outcome," he added.

O'Connell said he would "like to think" reaching an agreement for Hunter to stay in Vikings Purple is possible.

"When I say 'solution-oriented,' that is definitely one of the solutions that hopefully we can work toward," he said.

Though O'Connell isn't involved in the nitty gritty of the contract deals, per se, he assured he tries to be as involved as possible in any scenario involving a player he respects and hopes to retain.

"I'm quite honestly not smart enough to deal with some numbers that big or the salary cap and all those things, but my role is to continue, obviously, to coach our football team, work in conjunction with Kwesi and [Executive Vice President of Football Operations] Rob [Brzezinski] and the rest of our front office to do whatever I can to help out any situation that comes up," O'Connell said. "Making sure that all 90 guys on our football team are not only excited about their roles and where we're gonna go as a team, but hopefully me being the head coach and the guy up in front trying to lead the charge, they always look to me – even in some of those moments.

"I want to be there for our guys, and it's important to always try to do that," he added. "It's easier said than done sometimes, but I think they know me well enough now, whether through phone calls or text messages, the dialogue. I'm always going to stay in contact, and [they know] how much I do care about them each individually and what they pour into it for our team and our organization."

O'Connell noted he and Hunter built a bond in the past year and how Hunter's connection to the team dates all the way back to 2015, when the Vikings selected him 88th overall out of LSU.

O'Connell hopes Hunter will continue to positively contribute as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.

"My role is continuing to coach our team and try to help shape not only the roles for each one of our players, Danielle included, but how it all comes together. That's why I try to work hand-in-hand with Kwesi," he said. "But I definitely see [Hunter staying in Minnesota] as a real outcome, but there's a lot to be determined there, and I want to be very sensitive to allowing that process to play out for both our organization and for Danielle."

Below are three other topics covered by O'Connell during his media session:

1. 'All the respect' for Dalvin Cook

O'Connell also addressed the team's recent release of running back Dalvin Cook, who has been with Minnesota since being drafted in 2017.

O'Connell said he felt strongly about conveying his appreciation for the Pro Bowler.

"Not only what he meant to me in Year 1 as the head coach of this team but what he'll mean to me forever in my coaching journey. His leadership, his work ethic, what he meant to our football team in 2022, but much, much farther back than that with his impact on our organization," he said. "He will forever go down as one of the great running backs in Vikings history. Just have all the respect for Dalvin, his family, and I know there's great things out in front of him.

"I'm a fan of his forever, and as I told him the other day, I really hope he finds a great situation that he can continue to thrive in, and they'll be some really exciting moments out of in front of him," O'Connell added.

2. Mattison's up next

In the wake of Cook's departure, Alexander Mattison is the Vikings leading running back.

Mattison was drafted by Minnesota in 2019; in four seasons (59 games), he's totaled 404 carries for 1,670 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. He's also added 70 catches for 526 yards and three touchdowns through the air.

O'Connell emphasized his confidence in Mattison, whom the Vikings re-signed this offseason, as well as the rest of the position group.

"I feel really good about our running backs room, and Alex Mattison is a huge reason why," O'Connell said. "I think he's proven that he can, whether over the past few years when he's stepped in there and handling a really good workload and producing, and also just in our short-term together, his ability to handle the roles and responsibilities of that position in our offense. I feel great about where Alex is at. The next step in his career is obviously just a little bit more consistent opportunities, which obviously we hope to provide for him."

O'Connell added that with Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler and rookie DeWayne McBride, he wants "to allow a real competition to take place."

"We feel that there's talented guys behind Alex that can provide roles within our offense where maybe, depending on down and distance, depending on situation of the game, we can get some different guys in there – but all knowing that it's about that complete group being able to do everything we ask of them every single snap, both in the run and the pass game," O'Connell said.

View exclusive photos from the final two weeks of 2023 OTA practices, shot by Vikings Team Photographer Andy Kenutis.

3. Kirk Cousins champions 'Jersey Day'

Remember growing up and celebrating Spirit Week at school with designated themes like Crazy Hair Day or Pajama Day?

Kirk Cousins championed some throwback fun by setting up an organization-wide Jersey Day for the Vikings players, coaches and staff.

Players voted on the top jersey choice within the team, and Byron Murphy, Jr., was declared the winner. The cornerback opted for a full Vancouver Grizzlies Mike Bibby uniform, shorts and all, as a nod to the NBA great – who also is the cousin of Murphy's father.

"Byron Murphy had the best jersey," O'Connell said. "As you guys know, whether it's captains or Jersey Day, the players vote – and he won that vote. There were some pretty special, unique funny things. I saw some Bobby Boucher [jerseys]. I saw some Charlie Conways. I saw some different things. Quite a bit of throwback jerseys. Our guys have a good collection.

"All Kirk's idea. That was his whole deal, and the guys took it and ran with it," said O'Connell, who himself donned a Timberwolves jersey. "The gray Anthony Edwards [jersey] was a gift to me and I kept it local, kept it hometown."

He also mentioned that a member of his coaching staff resurfaced a jersey familiar to the head coach.

"There was a Kevin O'Connell San Diego State throwback worn by a coach that will not be named, because I do not want to give him any sort of publicity for that stunt," O'Connell quipped. "But it was a fun day. And little things like that, they go a long way in an offseason program where we have put a lot of work in, just to see guys laughing, smiling and coming together."