EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings voluntary offseason program is in full swing, and Minnesota's offensive linemen – returning and new – are among those with their noses back to the grind at Winter Park.
"I feel good," said center John Sullivan, who missed all of 2015 with a back injury. "The start of Week 2 [of the offseason program], and I feel great."
Sullivan expects to be back on the field for his ninth season with the Vikings and said he's feeling better now than he has since early in his career. Although he said it was difficult to watch so many games from the sideline – or his couch at home – last season, Sullivan feels the year off prepared him that much more to help the team succeed in 2016.
"I've got fresh legs, I have to say," Sullivan said. "Obviously I'm a year older, but I didn't have that same wear and tear on the body in 2015."
Sullivan saw the Vikings go 11-5 and make the playoffs for the first time since 2012 last season, and he's hoping to do all that and more in the upcoming season.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Sullivan said. "Obviously we didn't accomplish the ultimate goal last year and win the Super Bowl, but we put ourselves in a good position.
"We've got the right group of guys here to win, but we know that we start back at square one," Sullivan added. "The [NFC] North's not guaranteed, the playoffs aren't guaranteed – we have to go out and work. But we have the right mix of guys to do that."
The Vikings added a couple of veterans this offseason, one of them being guard Alex Boone.
Hailing from the 49ers, Boone brought a fresh perspective and personality for his first season in Minnesota. He may not have been with the Vikings last season, but Boone is confident he's in the right place and excited to help his new teammates win – maybe even a little too excited.
"I enjoy being here so much that when I'm here, I'm just at a '10' all the time," Boone said. 'I can't control myself."
Boone said he thinks Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer might see him as a "little bit of an oddball," but that's OK with him.
"I think it's because I'm so loud and I'm so out there all the time," Boone said. "I love the guy, though. I'm excited to play for him."
As hyped up as Boone was to don the purple and gold, he also acknowledged the intimidation of walking into a team's locker room as the new guy. Now that he's made that transition, however, Boone said that's exactly what makes the Vikings a great fit for him.
"They all want to play football, and they all want to have fun," Boone said of his teammates. "That's the most important thing in this league, and I've always believed that. Coming into a locker room like this where everyone's really close, tight-knit, they can have a fun time but still know when to work – that makes the best of a team. That's really what I'm walking in to."
New faces for the offensive line extend beyond those wearing cleats, as well.
View images of the Vikings new offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
The Vikings hired offensive line coach Tony Sparano in January, and both Boone and Sullivan said the former Dolphins head coach brings a different dynamic to a unit that Zimmer said needed improvement. The two linemen said Sparano set the tone on day one of the offseason training program.
"Your coach should always be the general," Boone said. "He's the guy that sets the tempo for you, and he laid it out: 'There's no nonsense. We're going to raise the bar this year.' I think that's great."
Sullivan echoed Boone, saying Sparano is all business, even in the less-formal position meetings that started last week. If players offer up incorrect answers in the meeting rooms, they're not let off the hook.
"I can't wait to get out on the field with him, because I have a feeling it's going to be a big change as far as how much we get yelled at," Sullivan said. "Tony's pedigree in the league speaks for itself."
The Vikings felt a sense of unfinished business in the way 2015 wrapped up, and pieces are falling into place this offseason to make adjustments. Sullivan and Boone have different personalities and different perspectives, but their vision for 2016 could not be more identical: to play in the Super Bowl.
"I think there's a lot of bad taste [in their mouths], and there should be," Boone said. "You see the hunger in a lot of guys, and that's what you want. You want guys to still be hungry – 'We kind of got in there, and now we want to go further.' I think everybody has that attitude around here, and it's great to come in here and be a part of that now.