EAGAN, Minn. – Lewis Cine thought he was having a phone call with Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.
Instead, he was surprised virtually by the entire team.
O'Connell and the rest of the crew spoke with Cine, who remains in London after undergoing surgery for a compound leg fracture. They also sang "Happy Birthday" to the rookie, who turned 23 Wednesday.
Lining everything up took some finagling considering the six-hour time difference between London and the Twin Cities.
"I kept on telling him, 'I've got these meetings and installs. I promise I'm going to call you.' I think he probably thought something was up when we had him downloading Zoom on his phone," O'Connell laughed. "But it was a special moment in our team meeting setting to be able to get his face up on the screen. The guys went crazy.
"It was a real special kind of moment," O'Connell said.
For most in the meeting room, it was the first time they'd seen their teammate since he was carted off the field Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Safety Josh Metellus, who sits next to Cine in the defensive backs room, emphasized how hard it had been to see Cine suffer such a significant injury.
"It was emotional, but it was good to see him smile. It was more happy than anything," Metellus said. "It was his birthday today, so we just wanted to let him know we're here for him, even though we're across the pond.
"Seeing a smile on his face after what happened to him, that livens us up more," Metellus said. "Knowing that a guy can go through that and still wanted to know how we're doing, congratulate us on the win. Because that was a good team win. That took everybody, including him."
The situation has also been difficult for O'Connell, who inevitably has thought back to the gruesome injury Alex Smith suffered in 2018 when O'Connell was Washington's quarterbacks coach.
He feels positive about Cine's chances on returning to the field for 2023, though.
"That was, ah, the last time that I walked out on the field to see – you know, I don't want to compare the injuries or anything like that," O'Connell said. "But seeing that, and seeing the look on Lew's face, I just wanted him to know I was out there with him at the time and that everything was going to be OK.
"Because I believe that," he added. "Step one is getting him fixed up and making sure we handle all the precautionary procedures that would only enhance his ability to have a great early part to his recovery, which is important, I think. And then ultimately, I just have such strong belief in Lew and his work ethic, and then the type of people, doctors and medical staff we have here once we get him back here."
O'Connell said Cine's surgery went extremely well.
"I cannot say enough good things about the care he's received at Cleveland Clinic London … and the doctors, the surgeons, their dialogue with our medical staff," he said. "Hoping to get him home toward the later part of this week. But as always, it will be about what is best medically for Lewis."
The Vikings head coach has spoken with Cine three or four times since Sunday, and the safety "seems in great spirits."
Shortly after undergoing surgery, Cine already is demonstrating the comeback mentality.
"He just continues to talk about how he's going to attack this process," O'Connell said, "and he knows he's coming home to hopefully a building and support system here where we can do nothing but just help him do that and be with him every step of the way."
You don't have to ask Cine's teammates twice. For Minnesota's locker room, it's simply second nature.
"That's our brother," Metellus said. "He's family. We look at him just as if somebody in our family went to the hospital or something to happened to them. It's a lot of our jobs to keep his head up and make sure he knows he's got people in this locker room rooting for him."