EAGAN, Minn. — Brian O'Neill got some quality practice reps against — and praise from — an esteemed opponent last week.
The Vikings left tackle faced Broncos linebacker Von Miller during the teams' pair of joint practices leading into Preseason 1.
O'Neill more than held his own against Miller, a three-time First-Team All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler in 1-on-1 pass-rush drills.
"O'Neill is one of the best right tackles in the league, and I got a lot of work against him today," Miller said Wednesday.
When O'Neill spoke to Twin Cities media members today, he responded to the compliment and opportunity to practice against Miller.
"I mean, that's a Super Bowl MVP who's probably going to be wearing a Gold Jacket [from the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day]," O'Neill said. "It was pretty cool to get two days of work against him in that environment, being able to get that many reps in that many different situations.
"It was just good work, and that's what I'm trying to accomplish this week, too," he continued. "Get a good week of practice and just keep trying to build, brick by brick, and get better every day."
Aside from bulked-up muscles and 42 starts of experience, the O'Neill who chatted with reporters isn't much different than the one Minnesota drafted 62nd overall in 2018.
He's a leader in the Vikings offensive line room, after the departure of left tackle Riley Reiff in free agency, but said he's maintained a similar mindset from rookie year until now.
"I mean, people might ask me a couple more questions here or there, but I really don't think it has [changed]," O'Neill said of his role in the locker room. "I try to be the same guy every day this year as I have been the last couple years. Try to be myself, and hopefully that energy and attention to detail attracts guys and they want to come along."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer designated 31 players, most of them starters, to not suit up for Saturday's game against the Broncos. If O'Neill and the rest of the starting offensive line takes any number of reps against the Colts this weekend, it will provide the group with a better evaluation of itself.
"I mean, we've really only practiced against ourselves, had a couple days against Denver. Just like anybody else, we've got a long way to go," O'Neill said. "Just like myself, just like any other position group, we're not where we want to be. Thankfully, we've still got a lot of practices left until it's time to go. But I'd say we're always a work in progress."
Quote of the Day:
"He's been really good, and he works really well with Harrison [Smith], is very smart, makes quick adjustments and does a nice job when he's in the back half of the field — middle/back end of the field. He does a nice job of reading the quarterback's transition and weight transfer and those things. He's fairly quiet, but on the field, he's a good communicator."
- Zimmer on Vikings safety Xavier Woods, whom the Vikings signed this spring as a free agent
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Oct. 19, 2021.
2 More Points
Here are two other takeaways from Tuesday's media session.
1. A good day for Mond
Vikings rookie quarterback Kellen Mond made his NFL debut against the Broncos in Saturday's preseason game.
The game action followed Minnesota's joint practices with Denver, but it also came shortly after Mond missed 10 days of training camp on the COVID-19/Reserve list. Zimmer noted positives and negatives from Mond's outing at U.S. Bank Stadium, especially emphasizing a need for the rookie to increase his tempo.
But Zimmer liked what he saw from Mond during Monday's practice, as he explained Tuesday.
"I actually thought he had his best practice since he's been here," Zimmer said. "I thought he was accurate with the football, he was much quick and in tempo, getting in and out. We did another 2-minute drill for him yesterday. I felt like that was his best practice that he's had since he's been here. So keep stacking those up, and that will help him."
2. Pierce champing at the bit
Vikings defensive tackle Michael Pierce is ready to go on Saturday.
While Zimmer said he hasn't decided the full roster of players who will suit up for Minnesota's second preseason game, Pierce said he's received word from coaches that he'll be playing.
"I'm playing in this game. I'm super excited," Pierce said. "I'm just counting down the days and making sure I tighten everything up for Saturday."
The exhibition contest against Indianapolis will mark 1 year, 7 months and 11 days since Pierce last played in an NFL football game. He played in the Ravens Divisional Round playoff game against the Titans on Jan. 11, 2020, before signing with the Vikings as a free agent. Pierce then opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns around COVID-19.
Now, he's back and more ready than ever.
"I think there will be a little bit of nervousness, but I don't know. The [joint] practices, you kind of get the same feel even though you don't tackle and all that stuff. Just going against another team," Pierce said. "For me, it'll be more fun than anything. I'll probably be a little bit more amped throughout the day since it's a night game than I normally would.
"I'm just looking to have fun, execute, make sure I'm being exactly who they brought me here to be on Saturday, and that's where my focus is," he added.