New Vikings pass rusher Jonathan Greenard focused on being himself, not replacing Danielle Hunter

Not even an hour into the NFL’s legal tampering period last week, the Vikings agreed to terms with Jonathan Greenard. Less than 24 hours later, the Houston Texans agreed to terms with Danielle Hunter.

Effectively, the Vikings and Texans swapped edge rushers. Think of it as an invisible string that will tie both players to each other for the foreseeable future.

Not that Greenard is coming to Minnesota trying to be anyone other than himself.

“My job is not to come in and try to fill anybody’s shoes,” said Greenard, who finished last season with 12 1/2 sacks. “My job is to be myself and do what got me to this point.”

Still, the connection between Greenard and Hunter is something that exists, and it will follow him throughout his tenure with the Vikings.

“I’m not oblivious to what’s going on,” Greenard said. “That doesn’t change me at all.”

He’s still going to get after the opposing quarterback with reckless abandon. He’s still going to talk trash whenever he’s on the field. He’s still going to make everybody around him laugh with his infectious personality and toothy smile.

“I’m going to be the same person,” Greenard said. “Everybody is going to love me.”

That comment oozed with confidence rather than cockiness and evoked laughter during his introductory press conference at TCO Performance Center in Eagan. It’s pretty clear that he is going to be a joy to talk to off the field. Now he has to prove he can be menace on it.

That’s exactly what Hunter was for so long. He struck fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks, racking up 87 1/2 sacks during his tenure with the Vikings, and establishing himself as a fan favorite despite his shy demeanor. Frankly, it’ll be weird watching the Vikings without Hunter changing the game with his relentless motor.

A statement from the Wilf family last week described Hunter as having among the most accomplished careers in franchise history.

“His physical presence and aggressive style of play helped our defense rank near the top of the NFL for several years,” the team owners’ statement read. “His lead by example, humble approach made it easy for teammates to select him as a captain, for fans to cheer for him and for the community to embrace him as a Minnesotan.”

The feelings of adoration were mutual.

“We have created some incredible moments and memories together that I will never forget,” Hunter wrote in a heartfelt post on Instagram. “I will deeply miss this organization and fan base.”

Asked about filling the void, Greenard emphasized that the impact Hunter made isn’t lost on him. He wants to be respectful of getting to follow in the footsteps of a legend at the position. He also understands the lineage of quality edge rushers who have made their way through Minnesota.

“I’m honored to even be considered to be in that type of category,” Greenard said. “I see myself getting to the quarterback the same way.”

It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Brian Flores plans to deploy Greenard. He will likely be moved around as a way to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable in and out of the pocket. As much as that could be a lot to take in, Greenard said he’s intrigued by the thought of it.

“Thankfully my job is a lot easier than others, where I can just go rush and get the quarterback,” he said. “There ain’t too much more thinking in that aspect.”

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