Viking star Danielle Hunter feels ‘more loose’ in new defense. What does that mean exactly?

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Vikings defensive star Danielle Hunter is going to be used in a variety of ways in Ed Donatell’s complex 3-4 scheme.

Though Hunter is technically listed as an outside linebacker on the Vikings’ roster, rather than a defensive end like he has been throughout his career, his main objective hasn’t changed. He still is going to be asked to get to the opposing quarterback by any means necessary.

What does he like most about the new defense?

“I feel a lot more loose,” Hunter said. “I like that feeling.”

When someone suggested that perhaps Hunter didn’t feel like he could play that way under former coach Mike Zimmer last season, he wisely took the high road so as not to stoke the flames.

“That’s in the past,” he said. “I just like feeling more loose.”

Asked what he thought Hunter meant by his comments, Donatell figured it was better not to assume. You know what they say about assuming.

“I can’t answer why he would say that,” Donatell said. ” I don’t know for sure what happened. I could ask him and get that answer. I’ll work on that.’’

Regardless of what Hunter was alluding to in his initial response, the fact that he feels comfortable in the new defense is a good sign.

“Our whole thing is we want to be multiple but simple,” Donatell said. “We’re in a day and age where if we’re too simple people are going to take advantage of it, and if we’re (too complex) our players are confused that’s going to be a detriment. We’ve got to hit that sweet spot.”

If everything goes according to plan, the Vikings will have a nasty pass rush this season with Hunter and Za’Darius Smith wreaking havoc off the edge on each side of the ball.

“It’s going to be amazing,” defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said. “The sky is the limit because we have so much talent across the board, especially with those guys on the edge.”

As for Hunter, after dealing with a wide array of injuries the past couple of seasons, he’s simply excited to be back on the field.

Could it be his best season to date?

“We’ll see,” Hunter said. “I’m just going to go out there and do my job like I always do.”

CINE VS. BYNUM

It remains to be seen who starts at safety alongside veteran Harrison Smith.

While the Vikings used a first-round draft pick to get Lewis Cine in the spring, they also were very impressed with Cam Bynum last season.

As of now, both are getting reps with the starters, and neither seems to have a definitive edge.

“We’re going to expose those two guys to everything,” Donatell said. “Are we going to have some three-safety packages? Does one play nickel and one play dime? Do they both need a little more time watching other people? We don’t know the answers to that. I know I’m very encouraged by both of them.”

MORE HAM PLEASE

It’s become something of an annual tradition for fullback C.J. Ham to be lauded at some point in late July or early August.

Because he grew up in Duluth, Minn., and played collegiately at Augustana, a Division II school in Sioux Falls, S.D., local television stations from up north often make the drive early in Vikings training camp.

It serves as a not-so-subtle reminder of how beloved Ham is by pretty much everyone in the organization. Even the new coaching staff has quickly grown to appreciate the things he brings.

“I think C.J. is going to have a lot of different roles for us, and he knows that,” coach Kevin O’Connell said. “He’s probably right up there with a few other guys on the offensive side where if we teach him something once, he’s got it and he’s ready to go execute that. He’s learning a lot of different phases of our offense.”

INJURY UPDATE

It sounds like cornerback Nate Hairston could be activated off the non-football injury list in short order. He’s dealing with an ankle issue, and the Vikings have decided there’s no need to push him so early in training camp.

Elsewhere, linebacker Jordan Hicks is dealing with an illness not related to COVID, and he should be back soon. As soon as Hicks is back in the mix, he will be a starter alongside fellow linebacker Eric Kendricks.

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