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Kevin O'Connell Ready to Lead Vikings in 'Class on the Grass'

EAGAN, Minn. — It's time for class on the grass.

That's the term Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell used to describe the upcoming phase of Minnesota's voluntary offseason program.

That phase begins this week, as the Vikings coaching staff can now join players on the field for simple instructions and drills.

O'Connell spoke to Twin Cities media members last week, and the enthusiasm was evident in his voice.

"No better place to coach, in my opinion, than on the grass with your players," O'Connell said. "This phase, the Phase 2, especially for an early-on staff, doing things for the first time, it basically turns into 'class on the grass' in a lot of ways."

View photos of Vikings players working out during offseason programming at the TCO Performance Center.

The Vikings have been hard at work for voluntary workouts inside Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center the past two weeks.

Phase 1, however, has been a bit of a ramp-up period to more intense work. So far, players have mostly held classroom meetings with coaches and run through strength and conditioning workouts in the indoor practice facility.

The Vikings defense, for example, worked out last Tuesday morning.

O'Connell said Tuesday that while he hasn't been on the field yet with his players, recent meetings — with the whole team or by position groups — have been very productive.

"The energy in the building's unbelievable with the players all back," O'Connell said. "I think they feel the energy we're bringing to the table from a coaching staff standpoint, and every single day feels like a big step forward for us as a group."

Vikings left tackle Christian Darrisaw commented last week on the teaching abilities of O'Connell and his staff as they incorporate new schemes on both sides of the ball.

Darrisaw noted that Minnesota's skill position group of Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, plus quarterback Kirk Cousins, is comparable to what O'Connell had in Los Angeles, where he was the Rams offensive coordinator in 2020 and 2021.

"I love it, especially the things that we're implementing in the run game and the pass game," Darrisaw said. "Watching some of the Rams clips and seeing what they did with it and knowing the personnel that we have here with J.J., Dalvin, Adam, K.J. and then Kirk at QB, it's going to be amazing.

"Can't wait to see us and watch yourself on film and what we do to defenses," Darrisaw added.

While optimism is high, part of the process for future success is laying the foundation now in all three phases.

And some of the most important work will come in Phase 2, which will run for the next three weeks beginning today.

In this phase, on-field workouts can include individual or group drills with instructions from coaches. Offensive players can also line up across from offensive players, and defensive players can line up across from defensive players, but those reps must be conducted at a walk-through pace.

No live contact nor team offense versus team defense drills are permitted.

"[It's] where we can slow things down, teach; they get some full-speed reps on air, get some things against some scouted looks in some of those scouted periods where we do it in the walk-through phase," O'Connell said. "But ultimately, it's just been great to get this thing really rolling."

As O'Connell and his staff work through the offseason and prepare for their first training camp and regular season in Minnesota, they know that taking things just one day at a time is the way to go.

View photos of the Vikings 2022 coaching staff.

But they also must maximize each of those days, including all of the ones between the white lines and on the green grass.

"You can talk a lot about your culture, which we're doing a ton of nowadays, and really building that early on," O'Connell said. "We're being methodical with how we want to build our systems.

"But ultimately, you've gotta get out on the grass," O'Connell added.


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