Vikings: Brian O'Neill, Akayleb Evans, Andrew Booth Jr. talk return from injuries

Brian O’Neill said Wednesday his offseason has come with no surprises, which is music to the ears of both the Minnesota Vikings and the veteran right tackle.

O’Neill’s 2022 season came to a close in Week 17, as he tried to run down Darnell Savage in what ended up being a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Vikings lost that game to the Packers, and lost O’Neill for the season. He initially thought he suffered a calf injury, but tests the next morning showed he had an avulsion fracture and about a 40 percent tear of his Achilles.

He had to watch from the sideline as the Vikings’ season ended in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs against the New York Giants.

"It’s hard, immediately the morning after the Green Bay game you’re like ‘Oh s**t, here we go.’ The more I talked to the doctors here and everything I was told here checked out with everybody outside of here that I also consulted with, everybody was aligned. That really helped make me feel more comfortable," O’Neill said. "It was more like no time to dwell on what it’s going to be like. Who cares what your situation is? You’ve got to make the most of it. Nothing you can do except get it fixed and come back as well as you can."

O’Neill is easing his way back as the Vikings start the on-field portion of their offseason workout program. His surgery went well, and while there isn’t a timetable for his return, he should be ready for training camp.

"From a personal perspective, I’ve taken the approach of let’s get this right, let’s do it right each step of the way. There will be enough time," O’Neill said. "In terms of weeks, I’m not really getting into that with all them. It’s more at this stage right now, are we doing this right? So far we have."

The Vikings' captain is entering his sixth season in Minnesota, and has started 75 of his 79 career games.


Vikings’ defensive backs Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans also spoke Wednesday for the first time since their rookie seasons were cut short due to injuries. Booth, a 2022 second round pick, was making his first NFL start against the Dallas Cowboys in late November when he went down late in the first quarter with a non-contact knee injury.

He was diagnosed with a torn meniscus, and missed the final 12 games. That’s on top of other injuries that slowed his draft process, and lingered before his rookie season started.

"A lot of injuries. It was a big learning process. Learning how to become a pro was what the rookie year was about," Booth said. "They say that our bodies are like Ferraris, so you’ve got to treat it a certain way."

Evans went into the NFL’s concussion protocol three times during the season – against the Bears, Bills and Jets. He eventually was put on injured reserve, ending the rookie season for the fourth round draft pick.

He said he spent the downtime learning how to adjust the way he tackles.

"My mindset when I tackle is just to always be aggressive. Not every tackle has to be a kill shot, so just keeping my head out of it," Evans said.

He played in 10 games last season and finished with 23 tackles. He’s getting fitted next week for a custom helmet, in hopes that he won’t have to deal with future concussions. After all, he says there’s life after football.

"I’m more than a football player. I had to realize my value outside of football," Evans said.