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Vikings Back from Bye Aiming to be Better than Before 

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Cardinals.

EAGAN, Minn. – The break is over.

The Vikings enjoyed a bye week that provided time to recharge, recover and spend time with family and friends.

When they returned to the team facility Monday, it was all back to business.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell knows it can be challenging to refocus after a bye, but he feels confident in his group.

"I think it's how you practice. We got a really good workday in Monday coming off the time away," O'Connell told media members prior to Wednesday's practice. "Our guys were juiced up, flying around the field. Now it's just, 'Can we get into that mode of understanding that you have a very finite amount of time to prepare and practice while still maintaining a fresh team, a healthy team?'

"We've got to understand there are no times where we can come out here and not have productive plays and not continue to progress and move forward," O'Connell continued. "The urgency is as high as it's ever been, and we'll continue to grow as our team continues to solidify what we are. Like I said, we've got to prove it every single week."

View the best of behind-the-scene photos captured by Vikings team photographers during Weeks 1-6 of the 2022 season.

For Minnesota's coaching staff, the bye week was utilized for much more than R&R.

O'Connell spent plenty of time self-scouting and poring over game film, finding ways to improve while acknowledging positives that have helped the Vikings be 5-1 entering Week 8.

He noted Minnesota's plus-4 turnover margin, a low number of penalties, the team's ability to finish ends of halves on strong notes and play good situational football.

"I think we've done a lot of the little things that help teams win games in this league that maybe don't jump off stat sheets," O'Connell said. "But I think our guys have played really hard, and now to me, it's just about, across the board on all three phases, striving for what is that standard?

"What is that standard for execution? What is that standard knowing that we're going to play a lot of really good teams, and we've got to continually grow as a team," he continued. "And you get a chance to do that coming out of your bye week and knowing you've got 11 opportunities ahead to really solidify what you are as a team."

Of course, the Vikings can be proud of their record thus far.

But O'Connell and the team know that things can turn on a dime in the NFL, and there is too much football remaining to feel too comfortable.

"I said to them today, we can be really proud of being 5-1 and overcoming some adversity and really standing on some foundations of pillars of how we've tried to build this team inside-out, from a culture standpoint to how we want to play from a philosophical standpoint," O'Connell said. "But ultimately, you prove yourself each and every Sunday in this league. The parity that exists around the NFL, the first time really getting a chance to watch a lot of football this past weekend, you just see it – game in and game out, nothing's going to be easy. It's about that elite execution.

"We feel very strongly about our team. I feel very strongly about the players we have and their skill sets and how we're trying to use them," O'Connell added. "It's just, 'Can we get a little bit better across the board? Can I be better? Can our staff be better?' And then ultimately, I feel great about our leadership kind of pushing those points home, and it's how we practice and prepare every week. And we won't get any credit for that. We just get to see the results, hopefully, of our process put in place to try to win football games."

View photos from the summer of Vikings Legend Jared Allen reacting as the 2022 Ring of Honor inductee. He will be honored during halftime of the Vikings-Cardinals Week 8 game.

It may seem cliché to emphasize "one game at a time," but it's very much Minnesota's mindset at this point of the season.

Dalvin Cook also spoke with reporters Wednesday and said he tended to look farther ahead as a younger player but no longer carries that approach. Rather, he mentally breaks the season into two parts, pre- and post-bye.

"Us leaders on the team have to just keep sending that message: it's still 0-0. Back to the basics. We're starting over," Cook said. "Everybody's coming in and studying, and let's just go play some football."

O'Connell has consistently spoken highly of the Vikings player leadership committee made up of veteran voices across the roster. Coming back from the bye, he said cornerback Patrick Peterson initiated a group meeting.

"He texted me today, 'Hey, let's get the leadership group together today just to make sure we're all on the same page about how important the minute-to-minute is and the little things,' " O'Connell said of Peterson. "And when that's one of your players doing that, that goes a long way. We've got a lot of guys with that ability to have that understanding of the importance of their roles in helping define who we are as a team."

That includes Cook, who never is short on his contagious energy.

"Let's go play better football than we did before," he's been telling his teammates.

"That's our mindset," Cook said. "We're not looking back, we're looking forward."