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Boone, Smith Add Ferocity & Depth to Vikings O-Line

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer isn't always a man of many words, but he can certainly get his message across.

Wednesday morning, Zimmer sat at a table of media members at the NFL Owners Meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, and discussed the addition of guard Alex Boone to Minnesota's roster.

"Here's a quote for you," Zimmer said, smiling. "Coming right now. Here we go, baby."

Reporters waited with recorders and poised pens while Zimmer held a dramatic pause before continuing.

"I feel like every other position group on our football team has a tough-minded personality," Zimmer said. "I don't know that our offensive line did."

It was a weighty statement from Zimmer, who hasn't held back from his thoughts on **addressing the offensive line** this offseason.

"I don't think that group played very well," Zimmer said of the unit's 2015 performance. "Sporadically, some of the guys played well, and some of the guys played well in spurts, but as an overall group – you know, Teddy [Bridgewater] was running for his life half the time, we had a whole bunch of one-yard runs – I just feel like we need to make some changes."

Boone became that first change.

The Vikings signed Boone on March 10. A veteran who logged 59 starts over the past four seasons with the 49ers, Boone brings a ferocity that Zimmer hopes will spread to his comrades on the line.

"We were looking for that type of a person," Zimmer said. "Somebody that would be outgoing, I guess that's the best way to say it, in that room."

When Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman inked Boone to a deal, he said Boone embodies the tough mentality the Vikings were looking for.

"I know what Coach Zimmer wants out of this football team – he wants a smart and tough and passionate football team," Spielman said. "We want to be the guys who play the hardest on Sunday, and one thing Alex does bring is that attitude."

In phase two of improving the offensive line, the Vikings signed tackle Andre Smith, whom Zimmer coached while serving as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator. Drafted sixth overall in 2009, Smith played seven seasons for the Bengals before turning in his orange jersey for the purple and gold.

"I like having first-round draft picks that leave other places," Zimmer said.  "They have pedigrees."

Zimmer has an affinity for bringing in players he's previously coached, having added cornerback Terence Newman to the roster in 2015 and recently signing safety Emmanuel Lamur. With Smith, Zimmer said he's confident in his abilities and the type of athlete he is.

"Andre's a really good athlete, and I think he still has some more room to develop," Zimmer said. "He doesn't have weight issues, he doesn't have issues off the field – he's a good guy."

Smith shares an equal respect for Zimmer and can't wait to play for him in 2016.

"He's been like a father figure, always telling me to work hard, keep my head down, don't pay attention to the media, what they're saying," Smith said during a **March 18 conference call** with Twin Cities media members. "He knows the football player I am and saw the growth in me as a man from my younger years in Cincinnati to maturing to the man I am right now."

When asked if Smith will start, Zimmer said he doesn't know. Ultimately, that's in the hand of the players.

"I see a bunch of them competing," Zimmer said.

While Smith is currently slated to play tackle, that's not written in stone either, as Zimmer said he's not opposed to looking at all the lineman in different places.

The Vikings played their 2015 season with the same front five every game. They were without starting center John Sullivan and starting tackle Phil Loadholt, however, after both suffered season-ending injuries last summer. In addition to Boone and Smith joining the competition for 2016, Sullivan and Loadholt are both expected to return, as well. 

"I just wanted to get as many bodies in there as I could," Zimmer said. "Let them fight it out."

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