EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A special teams period in Vikings practice Wednesday gave Minnesota's offensive line the opportunity to hustle to the other field and receive advice from Hall of Famer John Randle.
The former defensive tackle gave a couple of demonstrations, with Brian Robison helping facilitate the session. Randle has visited Winter Park the past couple of years as Head Coach Mike Zimmer has instituted an alumni-always-welcome policy. Randle played two of his 14 pro seasons for Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson and has worked with Everson Griffen.
So, Alex Boone, who does the offensive line turn to?
"Tony Sparano, c'mon dude," answered the guard who joined the Vikings via free agency in March said of his current position coach. Sparano was hired by Minnesota in January.
Boone elaborated that there are multiple sources for information within the walls of Winter Park, even if the players have less experience than veterans.
"I think as an offensive lineman, it never really changes, so one of the things, when you have a great room, and everybody gets a voice, you listen to what works well for other guys," Boone said. "So many people say an older guy can never learn anything from a younger guy. I don't believe that.
"It would be great to have John Randle out here practicing, wouldn't it? You're talking about one of the best," Boone added after the fifth of 10 scheduled organized team activity practices.
The Vikings have paid considerable attention to the offensive line this offseason, bringing in Boone and tackle Andre Smith. They also are on track to have John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt back from injuries in 2016 and build on the experience gained by last year's starters.
Sparano has been rotating reps for players with different groupings of players and positions, but Boone has been locked in at left guard with the first unit.
There are 16 offensive linemen on the Vikings 90-man roster, including nine players who have started all 16 games in at least one season.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner said Boone's extended experience, which includes 59 starts in the regular season and six in the playoffs, is showing up, even if full-padded, full-contact practices aren't part of OTAs.
"He's a veteran football player. You watch him on tape and you know he's a very, very physical football player," Turner said. "That doesn't translate to being out here in jersey and shorts, but he's brought some energy and some spark to our group – not just the offensive line. I'm excited watching him play when we get in the fall, when we get in pads and start practicing and get in games."
Boone said he is enjoying OTAs because it is allowing him to learn more about his new teammates. He had been with San Francisco since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He said the on-field work is answering, "What do I need to communicate to you, what do you need to communicate to me?"
"It's really a trial by fire. When we fail, we learn something," Boone said. "I need to start talking to you more and you need to start talking to me more. That's what all these OTAs are about. How can we help each other? How can we get better as a team?"