Though Brian O'Neill would much rather be preparing for Super Bowl LVI, he's enjoying and making the most of his first NFL Pro Bowl experience.
O'Neill was named to the Pro Bowl on Jan. 26 and arrived in Las Vegas this week along with Vikings teammates Harrison Smith, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins.
Asked about the temps in Vegas – which topped around 50 degrees during the NFC Team's Friday practice session – O'Neill laughed.
"Well, it's warmer than Minnesota!"
View photos of Vikings players from the first day of practice at the 2022 Pro Bowl in Las Vegas, Nev. on Feb 3.
O'Neill said it's been "a ton of fun" getting to spend extended time with his Vikings teammates but also to hang out with and learn from other players around the league.
He's one of eight NFC offensive linemen participating in this year's Pro Bowl, joining the following: Cardinals tackle D.J. Humphries, Seahawks tackle Duane Brown, Cowboys guard Zack Martin, Washington Commanders guard Brandon Scherff, Buccaneers guard Ali Marpet and Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen.
O'Neill also has been grateful for the chance to chat with Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs; although O'Neill is replacing Wirfs (due to injury) for the Pro Bowl festivities, the Tampa Bay lineman still made the trip to Vegas.
"I spend a lot of time with the NFC offensive line through meetings and practices," O'Neill said, noting that he's especially enjoyed connecting with the Tampa Bay linemen. "It's pretty cool to pick their brains about their past two years with Tom [Brady], and obviously they've had a lot of success."
The Vikings are, of course, pursuing that same level of success. As much fun as O'Neill is having at the Pro Bowl, he emphasized that it doesn't take away the sting of missing the postseason.
"This is not where you want to spend the weekend before the Super Bowl, ever, but only two teams get to [be there]," O'Neill said. "I get to meet a lot of other guys I haven't met before and hang out with them, and also get to know coaches around the league."
The 26-year-old emphasized the number of Vikings fans in Vegas to support their players, and O'Neill has a personal support group of approximately 20 people there for the week. Among them are his dad, brother, "a bunch of cousins" and former college teammates from Pittsburgh.
"This has been really fun … but having more postseason success would be a lot more fun," O'Neill said.
The NFC and AFC teams will hold their third and final practice sessions Saturday before Sunday's game, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. (CT). O'Neill expects to see some flashy plays from his teammates.
"Justin and Dalvin," he said. "I have a feeling Kirk will get them the rock, and those two will do what they normally do."
To wrap up the chat with O'Neill, I asked him five quick-hitting questions about his NFC teammates.
Who's the funniest?
Who's the most laid-back?
Who should control the locker room music?
"Not me. I feel like Deebo Samuel, because you always see the Niners walking out of the locker room with their big boombox. I feel like that's been a pretty big thing in the NFL this year."
Who would be most fun to spend a day in Vegas with?
"Probably Ryan Jensen."
Who's most likely to coach down the road?