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Kevin O'Connell Compliments Timberwolves & Twins, Reviews Vikings Rookie Minicamp

EAGAN, Minn. – All Kevin O'Connell needed was a Naz Reid towel — or tat.

The Vikings head coach was all smiles following Minnesota's first day of rookie minicamp, and it's clear that Wolves hype has made its way to Eagan.

O'Connell acknowledged the Timberwolves postseason success thus far and opened his press conference by including congratulations and encouragement for the team.

"I wanted to highlight just ultimate excitement and compliments to the Minnesota Timberwolves," he said. "How excited I know I am personally, and our guys in this building. It's been talked about on a daily basis."

The Wolves are currently in the second round of the NBA Playoffs and, as of O'Connell's media session, led the Denver Nuggets 2-0 heading into Friday evening's 8:30 p.m. (CT) tipoff.

"Those guys are rolling right now, and the sky's the absolute limit, and we're right there with them every step of the way," said O'Connell, who said he's attending Sunday's Game 4 at Target Center to "watch them clinch."

O'Connell also gave a shout-out to the Minnesota Twins, who had won 15 of their past 17 games heading into Friday night's contest at Toronto.

"I haven't been able to watch many of those games," he said, "but awfully exciting from a standpoint of the Twin Cities – and those guys setting the tone for, hopefully, a heck of a calendar year of success for all of us."

Here are four other takeaways from O'Connell's media session, which did not make mention of a Home Run Sausage.

1. Serving up offense

O'Connell was asked how he and Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips determine just how much to put on rookie QB J.J. McCarthy's plate early on.

O'Connell noted the coaching staff is "keeping it pretty tight" for the group during the three days of rookie minicamp, but McCarthy does already have a leg up on learning the offense.

"J.J. is getting a little bit more – you know, a little bit extra here and there, a little bit of stackin' some things together for him," O'Connell explained. "This weekend is really about preparing him to then step in with the full [team] next week, and then a week from there, we start our first OTA with the whole group."

He added McCarthy is "doing a great job of handling everything" and enjoying the process rep-to-rep.

"[He's] just continuing to build on what we spent a lot of time [on] together pre-draft, and one of the real benefits of that is, in a lot of ways, a lot of things we're talking about he's not hearing for the first time," O'Connell said. "It'll feel like a lot at times to him, and that's OK, and we just kind of want to continue to stress him above the neck and then when we get out here on the grass, it's techniques, fundamentals, rhythm, timing, all the things that go into playing quarterback in our offense. I'm excited. It's just fun to be out here with him on the grass."

2. 'Total learning environment'

O'Connell detailed the process of working with McCarthy, saying they'd review the 7-on-7 reps from Friday's practice, as well as individual reps to "try to tie in some teaching points."

"You know, 'Was he open enough throwin' to his left? Was he closed enough throwin' to his right?' 'Hey, what did you see here pre-snap that made you anticipate making that throw, or why didn't you anticipate making that throw?' And then we try to tie it all together with the multiple views that we have. Total learning environment," O'Connell said.

"I know some folks may be keeping track of completions and interceptions and things like that. Too early for that conversation, I can tell you that much," he continued. "It's all teachable. And that's what makes this time of year so valuable not only for J.J. but [outside linebacker] Dallas [Turner] on the other side. A lot of our players that were asking to come in here and have an impact."

O'Connell said he wrapped the morning's team meeting by showing a clip of Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr., as an undrafted rookie at least year's camp – and then followed it with a replay of Pace's game-sealing interception at Las Vegas.

"Each individual guy's going to have his own football journey in the National Football League," O'Connell said. "I feel like our job is to make them feel very fortunate it happened to come in Minnesota with us as a staff and that we're going to do everything we possibly can to help them."

View photos of the Vikings 2024 coaching staff.

3. McCown making an impact

McCarthy has appreciated working with and learning from new Vikings quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, who is coming off his second week of working on-field with Minnesota's veterans.

"We've been out there with the offense and the defense for the last couple of weeks, and … the best thing Josh does is communicates in a way that is so full of information and knowledge," said O'Connell of McCown, who played 16 NFL seasons before transitioning to coaching. "Having been a guy that played as long as he did, he really worked through a lot of aspects of the position as a player, but he's got an unbelievable aspect of teaching, how he communicates things, how he can demonstrate things, how he can allow a player to kind of get it and understand that the next rep is either going to solidify that or it's going to provide another opportunity to coach."

O'Connell said McCown has "absolutely been awesome" since joining the Vikings coaching staff, where he's worked closely with assistant offensive coordinator/assistant quarterbacks coach Grant Udinski.

"Grant Udinski is a phenomenal young coach, and he's helped me out so much for two years in a lot more ways than just coaching a position or, really, being my right-hand man," O'Connell said. "So watching those two guys together and gel the way they have, it's really, really cool."

4. Turner & the Flo' of things

While Friday's session was a slow ramp-up for the rookies, the enthusiasm that Vikings coaches have for working with Turner's athleticism and versatility remains high.

O'Connell noted early preparations will focus on Turner as an outside linebacker in Minnesota's 3-4 base defense.

"From there, once you can kind of build that comfort, then you can begin to stress him snap in and snap out where he's lining up in some different spots, doing some different jobs depending on down and distance, who else is in the game with? I mean, think about Andrew Van Ginkel in the same way where there's the versatility to do multiple jobs, and then you've got JG (Jonathan Greenard) that has the ability to rush inside and out," O'Connell said. "Now, pair those guys with some interior rush as well, and you start to see a third-down package start to materialize."

Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores began drawing up some ideas for Turner on the opening night of the draft after Minnesota was able to move up the board and select a player most projected to feature top-10 talent with the 17th overall pick.

Turner said multiple points Flores emphasized overlapped with many of the messages he received while playing for Nick Saban at Alabama.

"You can tell that he does not play games, he's all about business and handling business, and I'm about the same thing, too," Turner said. "The energy is just colliding, and it's very good energy for sure, I'm willing to be a sponge and learn whatever I can from him and all the coaches."