View photos of Vikings players returning to the TCO Performance Center to begin the 202 offseason program.
EAGAN, Minn. – At 7:59 a.m. on Monday morning, Kevin O'Connell took a brief moment to himself.
The new Vikings head coach took a deep breath outside the auditorium at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, just moments ahead of his first team meeting in Minnesota.
O'Connell arrived to the facility at 5:30 and got a quick ride in on a workout bike, eager to get the first day of the Vikings 2022 voluntary offseason program off and running.
Minnesota was one of six teams with a new head coach that started its offseason programs Monday, joining Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, Las Vegas and Tampa Bay.
Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been hard at work over the past 10-plus weeks since being hired, and O'Connell joined the effort upon his hire in mid-February. Monday, however, marked a significant day for O'Connell, as it was his first chance to address the team as the 10th head coach in franchise history.
TCO Performance Center was quiet and the parking lot was mostly empty as the sun began to rise around 6:30.
But soon, fresh faces and familiar ones alike strolled through whipping winds to get the offseason started.
Kirk Cousins wasn't the very first player through the doors – that honor went to defensive tackle T.J. Smith – but the quarterback arrived within a minute of Adofo-Mensah. The two are key pieces to Minnesota's success in 2022, as Cousins begins his fifth season as the starter and Adofo-Mensah looks to build a winning team around him.
A pair of players who will be tasked with helping Cousins succeed this season – tight end Irv Smith, Jr, and wide receiver Adam Thielen – pulled into their respective parking spaces within seconds of each other.
"Back to it," exclaimed Smith, who missed the entire 2021 season with a meniscus injury. "What up? What up?"
A while later, another pair of offensive superstars — wide receiver Justin Jefferson and running back Dalvin Cook — walked in together.
As players trickled into the building over a 90-minute period, it was clear that they were excited for what lies ahead.
"First day of school," chimed Vikings center Garrett Bradbury.
"You know what time it is," said cornerback Kris Boyd, who is never at a loss for words. "We back in the building!"
Boyd walked in with fellow corner Cameron Dantzler, and veteran Patrick Peterson strolled in a few minutes later.
There was a sense of energy from some new faces, too.
"First day back, baby," said linebacker Za'Darius Smith, who nearly skipped into the facility on his first day to meet new teammates.
Recent free-agent additions Harrison Phillips and Jordan Hicks walked in together, fast friends from getting to know each other last month.
As the Vikings entered the facility, they were greeted by the smell of fresh paint, a clear sign that the Vikings are embracing a fresh start themselves as spring nears.
Gone from the walls were records from previous seasons, and player awards from most of the past decade were also removed.
The Vikings went a combined 15-18 over the past two seasons, with the disappointing results leading to changes in the front office at general manager and head coach.
As the Vikings got back to work Monday, there was newness and change all around.
But the excitement and energy were high, and the ultimate goal remains the same.