Minnesota Vikings DE Danielle Hunter has season-ending surgery on herniated disk in neck

EAGAN, Minn. -- Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced that defensive end Danielle Hunter had successful surgery on Tuesday to repair a herniated disk in his neck and is done for the season.

While Zimmer did not relay a specific timeline for his pass rusher's recovery, he said Hunter "should be back and playing football again."

Hunter notched back-to-back seasons with 14.5 sacks while earning Pro Bowl honors in 2018 and 2019.

Zimmer admitted Wednesday that he knew Hunter's injury was more serious than he initially let on.

Hunter suffered the injury during the Vikings' first training camp practice on Aug. 14. Three days later, when asked why the defensive end missed a day of practice, Zimmer said Hunter had "a little tweak, he'll be all right."

That was not the case.

Zimmer continued to refer to Hunter's injury as a tweak throughout August. Hunter was then placed on injured reserve on Sept. 9.

"When you guys give me crap about this thing being a 'tweak,' when it all started, he woke up and thought he slept on his neck wrong," Zimmer said. "So that's why it was a tweak."

Hunter had an MRI on his neck "sometime during training camp," according to Zimmer, at which point the coach said he was aware that the injury was more than a tweak.

Sources told ESPN that the Vikings initially anticipated a six- to eight-week timetable for Hunter's stay on IR and that his injury was classified with a "major" designation. The 25-year-old was seen working with athletic trainers during practice throughout September on a rehab field and went to New York to receive a second opinion on his injury at the beginning of October.

Hunter weighed in after his surgery, calling it a "success," and thanked fans for their support.

Last season Hunter became the fastest player ever to record 50 career sacks, and he remains the 18th-highest-paid defensive end ($14.4 million per year) after signing a five-year extension back in June 2018.