Smith played only one regular-season game and the Packers’ postseason game last season because of a back injury.
Hunter has played only seven games the past two seasons, missing all of 2020 with a neck injury and sitting out the final 10 games last season after tearing a pectoral muscle.
Hunter spoke to the media Tuesday, his first interview since Sept. 29.
“I feel pretty good,’’ Hunter said, via Chris Tomasson of The Pioneer-Press. “Last year’s injury wasn’t as significant as the year before, but it was a three-month recovery. Had we made it to the playoffs, it’s possible I would have been able to come back.
“It’s just good to be back with the guys. . . . It kind of hurts just watching people play.’’
It was “around February or March” when Hunter returned to a regular workout routine.
“The biggest thing was having like the right people around me, just motivating me and keeping me in the right mindset,’’ Hunter said of his recovery.
Hunter had 14.5 sacks in both 2018 and 2019 before his injuries. That production surely is what prompted the Vikings to pick up an $18 million roster bonus on Hunter’s contract, which they converted into a signing bonus to lower his cap number for this season.
“I wasn’t really worried about (the bonus),’’ Hunter said. “My biggest thing was getting through my rehab and coming back playing football.’’
Hunter’s contract runs through 2023, so, after the past two seasons, he faces a big season in 2022. If he can stay healthy, Hunter has a chance to do just that in new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell’s 3-4 scheme.