Danielle Hunter happy to be 'over the hump' with Vikings

EAGAN, Minn. -- A week ago, Minnesota Vikings pass-rusher Danielle Hunter grudgingly reported to training camp after having skipped the entire offseason program, including mandatory minicamp, in a contract dispute. For five days, he followed a modified routine that included daily trips to the practice facility but no time on the field as team executives explored trade possibilities.

On Monday, Hunter's tune had changed considerably. After signing a new contract that will pay him at least $17 million this season, he stood in front of a group of reporters and said: "I want to be a Viking forever."

The relief Hunter expressed more closely resembled a temporary reprieve. The deal prevents the Vikings from using their franchise or transition tag on him next spring, making it likely that he will enter the free agent market for the first time in his career. But if Hunter holds any grudges over the Vikings' refusal to give him a longer-term contract, he wasn't saying so Monday.

"I love this organization," he said. "I've always been an advocate for these dudes. I'm happy to be back, happy to get back out there with my teammates, and just want to get out there and play football. ... It's been a long process, but I'm here now, and I'm ready to work."

Asked whether he had hoped the Vikings would trade him during the offseason, or even this summer, Hunter said: "I wasn't really focused on that. I wanted to come back here, be with my teammates and play ball. I'm happy we got over the hump."

Hunter, who led the Vikings with 10.5 sacks last season, participated Monday in a light walk-through but worked mostly off to the side during the team's full-pads practice later in the day. He said the Vikings' medical staff has planned a two-week acclimation period to get him ready for full practice participation.

In the meantime, Hunter will be working on learning the Vikings' new defense under coordinator Brian Flores. While Hunter's position is officially an outside linebacker in the scheme, Flores downplayed the likelihood that Hunter will spend much time dropping into coverage or doing anything other than rushing the passer. As an outside linebacker last season under former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, Hunter dropped into coverage on nearly 5% of his snaps, nearly twice as much as his career average.

"I probably like him going forward more than backwards, personally," Flores said, "but there are some instances where he may have to drop."