Zimmer isn’t concerned about Hunter’s injury or contract

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Mark Craig, Star Tribune
·3 min read
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Mike Zimmer hasn't spoken with Danielle Hunter this offseason, but the Vikings coach didn't voice any concerns about his top pass rusher's neck or mind-set.

Asked where things stand between Hunter and the team, Zimmer said, "Well, I know he's talked to Andre [Patterson, co-defensive coordinator and line coach]. I have not talked to him. He's been sending back videos of his workouts, and they're very, very impressive. So we're excited to get him back on the field."

Hunter missed all of last season because of a neck injury that needed surgery. But that's not the only issue concerning one of the league's best pass rushers.

Hunter is believed to be unhappy and seeking a new contract. His current one pays a yearly average of $14.4 million, which has sunk to 17th highest among the league's edge rushers.

Zimmer didn't address Hunter's contract or potential holdout. But he sounded as if he's not expecting any problems with Hunter.

"He's a great team guy, he's a terrific player," Zimmer said. "And he's one of the best people that I've been around in professional football."

Who's the left tackle?

While the Vikings have spent the offseason plugging holes in a leaky defense, one glaring question mark has dominated the other side of the ball since left tackle Riley Reiff signed with the Bengals.

"At this point we've got Rashod Hill back, we've got [Oli] Udoh back, we've got [Brian] O'Neill back, we've got [Ezra] Cleveland," Zimmer said. "So we'll be able to take care of those situations. All of those guys are good players and we'll continue to figure it out and go from there."

O'Neill is the starter at right tackle, but has the skill set to play on the left side. Cleveland played better than expected at right guard as a rookie last year but was a second-round draft pick after playing exclusively at left tackle in college.

Kubiak is 'ready for it'

Zimmer compared new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak to former Vikings offensive coordinator and reigning NFL Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski.

Asked if he thinks the 34-year-old Kubiak is ready to take over for his father, Gary, who retired after last season, Zimmer said, "He's ready for it." Then he mentioned Stefanski, who was 36 when he succeeded John DeFilippo as a first-time coordinator late in the 2018 season.

After a full season as coordinator in 2019, Stefanski turned the longtime league laughingstock Browns into a playoff team.

"Klint, he's a lot like how Kevin was when he was there," Zimmer said. "He's very detailed. He brings up the subject that they want to discuss [in offensive meetings]. He'll have his opinions. He'll listen to the other guys' opinions in the room and then kind of go from there.

"He's done a good job. Everybody's going to wonder what it's going to be like when you're a first-time play-caller, but at the end of the day every one of us was always a first-time play caller at one point."