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Darrisaw Learning from O'Neill & Hunter as He Eases Back into Practice

EAGAN, Minn. – Christian Darrisaw has traded in the mental reps for live ones this week, and it's a welcome sight.

The first-round pick practiced for the first time of U.S. Bank Vikings Training Camp this week; although he participated only in individual drills Wednesday and Thursday, it's definite progress after spending the first half of camp without a helmet.

Darrisaw spoke to Twin Cities media members Thursday and said he's feeling good.

"Physically, I feel great. It's great being out here with the guys, being able to compete and everything like that," Darrisaw. "I'm just happy to be out there."

He credited the Vikings training staff for "taking good care of me" and assured that he's been following their instructions for getting back on track after re-aggravating a groin injury he suffered late in the 2020 season.

View photos of Vikings players during training camp practice on August 4 at the TCO Performance Center.

"It is the same injury, but I feel great now, and it won't be something I have to worry about from here on," Darrisaw said.

"Mentally I was out there just going through things in my head and everything like that, so I really wouldn't say I lost time," he noted. "I was still out there."

And while he isn't yet participating in full-team drills, Darrisaw is gleaning all he can from veteran players on both sides of the trenches.

He was asked about Brian O'Neill, who is entering his fourth NFL season. A second-round draft pick in 2018, O'Neill was thrown into the fire Week 6 as the Vikings starting right tackle and hasn't looked back. So when it comes to Darrisaw prepping to be a rookie starter on the offensive line, O'Neill has been in his shoes – or, cleats.

O'Neill said recently that he's been helping Darrisaw however he can, whether in meetings or on the sideline during walk-through and practice sessions.

"When I have a chance, I'll pull him aside and say, 'Hey look, this is what we saw here, and this is why we're taking a different angle on this play.' Or 'This is why I got in trouble, or this is why I got beat,' and just be very active with him in terms of what we see, why we see it and how we try to do things now," O'Neill explained. "He's a good kid, smart worker – he's got all the potential in the world. He'll be great, no doubt. Just trying to keep him involved now."

Darrisaw is grateful for the guidance.

"He was in my same position, really. Coming in young, being a starter," Darrisaw said of O'Neill. "Just [learning] tips and keys going throughout my rookie year, thing that he's been telling me – just how to manage my time and everything like that. So I've definitely learned from Brian."

Rashod Hill has been manning the first-team reps at left tackle in Darrisaw's absence. When the time comes for the rookie to slide into his anticipated role, though, he'll consistently see defensive end Danielle Hunter across him during practices. And he knows the two will make each other better.

"Top defensive end in the league – there's no one like him," Darrisaw said. "It's great competition."

He later added: "We've talked a little bit. I haven't really gone full speed against him yet, but we talk a little bit."

As the Vikings head into the second half of camp, Darrisaw is keeping his sights set on starting Week 1.

"That's the goal," he said. "But right now, I'm taking it a day at a time. Just controlling what I can control."

Day-by-day is a solid approach to have – and in two, Darrisaw will step foot into U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time. The Vikings will hold their first-ever training camp practice there Saturday, and Darrisaw can't wait to lay eyes on the team's regular-season home.

"I've heard it's beautiful," he said with a smile. "And I can't wait for a real game there [and to see] the atmosphere."