In the summer of 2020, Minnesota Vikings Danielle Hunter’s defensive end was hampered by an injury few knew the seriousness of. General Manager Rick Spielman traded for Yannick Ngakoue, an EDGE rusher of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who supposed to pair up with Hunter and formulate a formidable pass-rushing power. In hindsight, that might have been a contingency plan.
Why? Despite head coach Mike Zimmer’s insistence that Hunter fought with a “tweak,” the LSU alumnus missed the entire 2020 season with a neck injury. The spat exposed Zimmer as a speaker of misleading statements to many fans – although the coach truly believed the matter was minor. Zimmer was wrong. Therefore, every time a player sustains an injury after that, the Vikings skipper has to lie when commenting on the severity of the injury. That’s the working theory anyway.
Don’t mind the idea that Zimmer himself maybe misled. That kind of thinking is apparently too sophisticated, not giving Zimmer the benefit of the doubt, at least not for a while.
Flash forward to 2021 and a handful of Vikings players already have preseason injuries. And the one most eerily familiar with the Hunter situation is Anthony Barr’s status.
No one knows what’s wrong with Barr, but he hasn’t practiced for about a month. Players generally have some kind of statement that comes with an absence of preseason training camps, practices and games. For Barr, however, it is all a mystery.
When asked about the Barr ordeal on Monday, Zimmer replied as if he is vividly familiar with the weight his words carried last year:
Mike Zimmer on Anthony Barr: “I hate to say it because you guys just say I’m wrong when I’m wrong, but he does it really well. We have a good plan for him to get him ready for departure.”
— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingStrib) August 30, 2021
Zimmer was still optimistic about Barr’s early season prognosis and learned his lesson. He will no longer claim that an injury is minor – without clearly knowing the trainer’s or doctor’s assessment. It’s a bit of a shame because spectators of the team want Zimmer to be as transparent as possible. But if he knows that every word of his will be taken as an in-depth search for semantics or meaning, Zimmer will introduce things a little more judiciously.
It shows that he is fully aware that the media and fans are merchants in the gotcha game. If Zimmer once says a player has a tweak, it means that every player who continues is destined for a season-long trip to the IR. That’s why Michael Pierce’s July calf injury was greeted by fans with “here we go again”. The pattern also fits things like “player tweets.” If a player tweets a cryptic lyrics a la Stefon Diggs, his bags are packed elsewhere because according to some fans he must be dissatisfied.
Learning from past behavior or events is more than reasonable – up to a point. Yeah, for example, if Zimmer said Hunter had a “tweak” but it turned out to be a season ending, then it’s good for fans to remember that for lessons learned. Still, it doesn’t have to be an indictment for each injury that occurs.
Zimmer made a mistake a year ago when analyzing (or believing someone) an injury. He’s no ordinary liar, nor is he trying to annoy you.
His comments to the press on Monday are an example of self-awareness. He doesn’t want to be destroyed every step of the way for something that happened a year ago.
It is almost a footnote that Barr Real seems to be getting healthy.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007 host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday along with Raun Sawho and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos’ and The Doors (the band).