Defensive end Danielle Hunter did not practice Tuesday on the first day of the Vikings’ three-day mandatory minicamp, but just having him on the field at the TCO Performance Center was good enough for his teammates.
Hunter missed all of last season because of a neck injury and sat out voluntary organized team activities due a contract issue. But Hunter’s deal was reworked Monday, clearing the way for his return.
“Everybody’s got their own business side going on, so as a player, definitely respect that, but also very happy to have Danielle back,” safety Harrison Smith said. “He’s a tough guy to replace. He’s a game-wrecker for us.”
According to NFL Media, the two-time Pro Bowl selection will have $5.6 million of his $12.15 million base salary in 2021 paid in a signing bonus, although he won’t make any additional money for the season. But added to his deal for 2022 is an $18 million roster bonus potentially due in March, which could make his salary that year about $20 million. That could result in an salary increase of about $8 million.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who re-signed Tuesday with the Vikings after playing for them in 2018, called Hunter a “freak-of-nature defensive end.”
Also on the field but not practicing were cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Cameron Dantzler, linebacker Chazz Surratt and defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman. Not present were cornerbacks Jeff Gladney, Kris Boyd and Tye Smith, and kicker Riley Patterson. Gladney, arrested April 5 in Dallas on a charge of third-degree felony family violence assault, has been absent all spring.
Smith, Richardson and receiver Adam Thielen were the three Vikings players made available to the media Tuesday on Zoom calls. Each was asked if he had received a coronavirus vaccination, and each said no.
“Just like everybody else, make your own decision,” Smith said.
Those not vaccinated must wear masks at the team facility and deal with other restrictions related to social distancing.
“That’s why I’m in a room right now by myself (for a Zoom call), and I’m just dealing with it,” said Richardson, who said he’s “trying to find out as much information as I can about” the vaccine.
The Vikings are holding seminars with players about the vaccine.
“They’re doing a great job of continuing to educate us and giving us resources, and then kind of giving us the option to make that informed decision,” Thielen said.
Quarterback Kellen Mond, taken in the third round of this spring’s draft, signed his rookie contract. He received a four-year, $5.223 million deal, which includes a signing bonus of $1.158 million, and will count $949,712 against the 2021 salary cap.
Mond is the eighth of Minnesota’s 11 draft picks to sign. Not signed are three other third-round picks: Surratt, guard Wyatt Davis and defensive end Patrick Jones II.
Extension for Smith?
Smith, 32, is entering the final year of a five-year, $51.25 million contract extension he signed in 2016 and a candidate for another extension.
“I’ve been here going on 10 (seasons) and would love to be here in the future,” said Smith, due to make $9.85 million in 2021. “Going to look at those things and see what we can do.”
A five-time Pro Bowl selection who arrived in 2012, Smith is the team’s longest-tenured player.
“People ask me how long I’ve been in the league, and I say, ‘This is my 10th (year),’” Smith said. “It kind of catches me off guard sometimes.”