Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter‘s biggest challenge might not be switching sides, it might be learning the names of all his new teammates.
The departure of veteran defensive players from Minnesota has been extreme, leaving Hunter to adapt to an extreme makeover around him.
“It’s a business,” Hunter said, via Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com. “It would be very unrealistic if you were able to keep a team the same way for X amount of years, but it’s a business. Guys have got to do what’s best for them, and sometimes the team has to do what’s best for them, and it’s just a part of life. We can only deal with the situation we have now, and that’s to make progress and change.”
While there were some different situations involved (age, salary cap, injuries), the net result is that eight guys Hunter were used to playing with are gone — Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, Stephen Weatherly, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse, and Andrew Sendejo.
That’s an incredible amount of turnover for a good defense, but the 25-year-old Hunter knows he has to become a leader know after playing next to Griffen and Joseph for the last three years.
“I learned a lot from [Griffen and Joseph] and I’ll definitely pass along what I’ve learned from them to the other guys in the group and the new guys that are coming in,” Hunter said. “I definitely see myself as turning into the leadership role of passing on the knowledge of what I’ve learned and teaching the younger guys that we get or the people in the future that we get the roots and the fundamentals of becoming a good defensive end or defensive lineman.”
Hunter became the youngest player in league history to reach the 50-sack mark last year, and a lot of that had to do with the cast around him putting him in good positions. It’ll be harder now, putting more pressure on him — beginning with needing nametags in a shortened offseason.