Enjoy a Tuesday notes column.
After three games Viking outside linebacker Danielle Hunter ranks second in the NFL with five sacks. Long known as one of the league’s best rushers, Hunter missed all of the 2020 season and was limited to seven games in 2021 because of injuries.
“I’ve learned a lot about taking care of the body over the years,” Hunter told Sports Headliners. When Hunter was younger, he “used to stay up all night playing video games.”
What’s his approach to staying healthy now? “I feel like the biggest thing is just rest,” he said. “Sleep, nutrition. That’s the most important thing. Over the years, being younger, you think you don’t need sleep but as time goes on, sleep and nutrition is probably the most important thing.”
Hunter, 28 years old and now in his ninth NFL season with the Vikings, avoids unhealthy foods and takes magnesium before going to sleep because the mineral helps him relax. He targets about eight hours of sleep and doesn’t nap. “I try to stay up as much as I can and reward myself with a good deep sleep.”
Hunter’s fast start in accumulating sacks is not new. In the first seven games in 2021 he had six sacks.
Hunter has averaged double figures in sacks four times during his career including last season at 11.5. He had 29 sacks and 36 tackles for loss in 2018-2019, ranking second and third in the NFL over that span.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Dalton Risner makes his first start for the Vikings Sunday in Charlotte against the Panthers. Risner, who signed as a free agent with the Vikings last week, played four seasons at left guard with the Broncos. He could line up there Sunday, with Ezra Cleveland moving to right guard where he has previous experience and replacing Ed Ingram.
Another possibility is Risner could play right guard, with Cleveland remaining on the left side. Risner has practiced at right guard with the Vikings.
His offensive line versatility includes playing center and tackle at Kansas State. “I can still snap the football,” Risner told Sports Headliners. “Primarily I think I am a left guard, right guard, right tackle, center emergency. I played three years at right tackle (in college). In the NFL, nobody talks to me as a right tackle, man. …I don’t know if you should trust me at left tackle.”
Alexander Mattison said some of the best advice he received from Dalvin Cook, the man he replaced as the Vikings’ starting running back, is “be the kid that fell in love with the game.”
That means playing relaxed and loose. Challenging? Yes, because Mattison can be his harshest critic and he said “no one can beat myself up, criticize me more than myself.”
Mattison had his best rushing total of 2023 in last Sunday’s loss to the Chargers. He gained 93 yards on 20 carries.
Former Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, now with 0-3 Carolina, said “next week (against 0-3 Minnesota Sunday) kind of feels like a playoff game.”
It’s that kind of dramatic situation for both teams, with ESPN.com’s Bill Barnwell writing earlier this month that since 2002 99 NFL teams have started their seasons 0-3 but only one (the 2018 Texans) has made the playoffs. And only one 0-4 team has ever earned its way into the postseason, the 1992 Chargers. Take note, though, that the NFL started playing a 17-game regular season schedule in 2021 which now provides an extra game to recover from a difficult start.
Thielen, 33, is still a playmaker and last Sunday had 11 receptions for 145 yards, the fourth most for a single game in his 10-season NFL career.
Former Vikings quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre was a big hit in Winona earlier this month. A consummate storyteller, he was the celebrity speaker for the Morrie Miller Athletic Foundation Banquet. The dinner, along with a golf tournament, raised a record $410,000 for Winona area athletics. Many attendees said he was the best guest ever and the past celebrity list includes Joe Montana, Mike Ditka, Bart Starr and Bud Grant.
If Darius Taylor, injured late in last Saturday’s loss to Northwestern, can’t play in this Saturday’s Gopher Homecoming Game against Louisiana it will be interesting to see if redshirt freshman Zach Evans receives some reps. Evans, with an impressive reputation coming out of high school in Texas, hasn’t carried the ball in the first four games. He had a brief head turning debut in one game last season, with six carries for 29 yards and one touchdown against Northwestern.
Bryce Williams, now in his sixth and final season with the Gophers, seems the likely starter if Taylor can’t play. He knows his assignments and is probably the best receiver among the running backs. Sean Tyler, the Western Michigan transfer fumbled three times against Eastern Michigan, and since then had three carries against North Carolina and none in the Northwestern game.
Taylor is the Big Ten Freshman of the Week after accounting for 198 yards rushing and 18 receiving yards last Saturday. It’s the third consecutive week he has won the honor, something that is a first in Gopher history.
Disgruntled Gophers fans after consecutive losses to North Carolina and Northwestern can do something positive by assisting Dinkytown Athletes. The official collective of Gophers sports accepts money designated to a specific program and money exclusively for football can reward current players for their Name, Image and Likeness. More money directed to football helps retain these players and assist future Gophers. Ideally, word gets out in the future that Minnesota is a strong NIL school, and that can do nothing but help attract quality talent and make the Gophers successful on the field.
If only two percent of football season ticket attendees, approximately 480, gave an average of $500 this fall it will increase revenues by $240,000. If 1,000 fans who follow the football Gophers only on TV gave an average of $250, that would jump revenues by $250,000. Sums like that, added to what is already in place and coming, would considerably boost football NIL money. https://dinkytownathletes.com/
The Gopher men’s hockey team is predicted to win the Big Ten regular season championship, per a poll of league coaches announced yesterday. Six Gophers are preseason All-Big Ten selections. Jimmy Snuggerud and Luke Mittelstadt are first teamers; Bryce Brodzinski, Mike Koster and Justen Close second teamers, and Ryan Chesley is an honorable mention choice.
No telecast of the Wild’s preseason opening game (start time 7 p.m.) in Dallas tonight against the Stars but KFAN has radio play-by-play. 100.3 FM.
Twins president Dave St. Peter talking about upcoming playoff games at Target Field: “We expect to sell out postseason games.”
St. Peter enjoys attending games at tradition-laden college football venues and on November 18 (after the World Series) plans to be in Knoxville to watch Tennessee against Georgia.
Not often in their history have the Twins made an offseason minor league free agent signing that turned out better than their late 2022 acquisition of Willi Castro. His versatility playing in the outfield and infield, timely hitting and base running (leads the team with 32 stolen bases) has been a factor in the Twins winning the AL Central Division.