The Most Encouraging News of the Day for Vikings Fans

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings are back for 2023 as rookies reported to Eagan on Sunday for training camp, and everyone else followed on Tuesday.

The club won the NFC North in 2022 for the first time in five years and seeks a repeat division crown, an occurrence not experienced by the Vikings or its fans since 2008-2009.

The Most Encouraging News of the Day for Vikings Fans

And while several Vikings-themed matters remain unresolved — Danielle Hunter’s contractual situation, extensions for Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson, etc. — the most encouraging news of the week to date arrived on Tuesday. Pro Bowl right tackle Brian O’Neill is essentially ready to go and won’t spend time on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Most Encouraging
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said about O’Neill, “We will continue kind of a pre-determined plan for him that allows him to really progress towards the ultimate goal, which has always been September 10th against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There’ll be a process throughout camp.”

O’Neill partially tore his Achilles in Week 17 last season on a pick-six — the bad kind — against the Green Bay Packers. He [obviously] missed the remainder of the regular season and wasn’t available for Minnesota’s postseason loss to the New York Giants.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

So when the summer began and training camp neared, some believed O’Neill would start the process on the PUP list. But his recovery has evidently progressed so swimmingly that a formal PUP designation is not required. The Vikings will take it easy with O’Neill, per O’Connell’s paraphrasing, and he won’t formally miss any time this summer. A similar situation occurred with second-year safety Lewis Cine, who broke his leg versus the New Orleans Saints in London. Cine, too, is ready to go — almost miraculously.

Minnesota will need O’Neill fully upright and healthy to improve offensive line performance in 2023. The offensive trenches became more efficient in O’Connell’s first year, rest assured, but now is the time to get good-good instead of not-horrible, as the OL iterations from 2018 to 2021 were, well, horrible, especially concerning pass protection.

Vikings Offensive Lineman Absolutely Thrived in September
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings have the ‘hard part’ out of the way. They employ O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw as bookend offensive tackles, and most teams don’t have the luxury of two Pro Bowl or budding Pro Bowl tackles. The edges of the team’s line are set, and now the guards and center must follow suit to achieve longstanding consistency.

Had O’Neill not been ready for Week 1 against the Buccaneers — a real fear by Vikings fans — Minnesota would’ve pivoted to veteran Oli Udoh or Blake Brandel for starting duty.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah also signed former Los Angeles Rams OT Bobby Evans on Monday, the same player fetched from free agency last year when O’Neill was lost to the Achilles injury.

O’Neill will turn 28 in September.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by