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O'Connell Provides Injury Recovery Updates on O'Neill, Cine & Booth

EAGAN, Minn. — Brian O'Neill could be ready to return to action during training camp, Lewis Cine is showing signs of progress that he'll be able to participate during on-field practice activities in May, and Andrew Booth, Jr., is doing "really well" in his rehab from a torn meniscus.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell provided those updates to media members Thursday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center where he and leaders of the team's health and performance staff hosted an on-the-record explanatory session.

O'Neill, Minnesota's starting right tackle since 2018, suffered a partially torn meniscus in Week 17 at Green Bay. He's been in the building multiple times this offseason to rehab the injury.

"O'Neill with that right Achilles repair should be ready for training camp," O'Connell said. "He's already out of his boot — I saw yesterday — and progressing in his rehab. We're expecting Brian to be ready to go — we'll be smart with him early on in camp; he's played a lot of football, we know, and Year 2 in the offense is a huge benefit versus Year 1 where those guys are kind of learning a little bit more about how we operate."

Vikings Executive Director of Health and Performance Tyler Williams further explained the uniqueness of O'Neill's injury, which happened while hustling during an interception return by Green Bay.

"It's a partial tear that came from the bottom of where the Achilles attaches to the bone, and what it's called is an avulsion fracture, which happens a lot of different times," Williams said. "His happened, and it was unique. It just didn't fully, all the way go. It partially went, so really, probably just about 40 percent fractured off, so we have to repair that for the long term for him.

"I think that should set him up for success, and obviously Brian, the way he handles everything, he's been here just attacking every single day," Williams added. "Usually, the athlete is what makes the rehab success shine and go, and his process and approach to everything he does is great work."

Cine, Minnesota's first-round pick in 2022, was contributing on special teams early last season before suffering a broken leg during the Vikings-Saints game in London.

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium morphed from a festive atmosphere into an emotional scene as professionals provided Cine care. He remained in London for surgery before eventually returning to Minnesota. Teammates went wild when Cine joined a team meeting from halfway across the globe.

"He's doing really well," O'Connell said. "I'm just so proud of where he's at and his desire to be in this building every day doing the things we're asking him to do and going beyond that. He's been fantastic, and he's progressing. There's hope that he could potentially be part of our OTAs. You guys know Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3. We're looking at a Phase 3 start time, sometime in the third week-plus-or-so in May.

"We'll take a pretty similar structure to what we did last year," O'Connell said of the plan for OTA practices. "We're talking about some things and how with the new defensive scheme we'll try to do to help accelerate that, but the hope is we'll have Lew for, potentially, the start of that process."

Williams, who leads a comprehensive collaboration between the athletic training, player performance and nutrition departments, said there have been "raving reviews of A-plusses" for Cine during his rehab effort.

"Shining moments for the whole entire offseason. He's been here every single day and has completely grinded," Williams said. "He had a tough injury, over across the world, and the medical staff over there handled it absolutely amazing. Some of the surgical techniques that they did were phenomenal, so for him to be doing how he's doing, we are all super impressed with how he's attacking.

"He's been spending extra time with [Director of Player Performance] Josh [Hingst], extra time with [Head Performance Dietitian] Remi [Famodu-Jackson], extra time with [Head Athletic Trainer] Uriah [Myrie], and he's taken full advantage of his offseason to get to where he's set up to go this spring," Williams said.

Asked if the turf was to blame for Cine's injury, Williams said, "I don't believe so, but I also don't know 100 percent."

"I know the NFL is studying all the different surfaces between grass and turf. When we went back and looked at the tape, we couldn't definitively say it was because of the turf," Williams said. "As you see that play, he's flying through the air at a very high speed and slams that foot into the ground and was kind of 'wrong place, wrong time.' "

Booth, a second-round pick last year, was placed on Injured Reserve at the end of November. He appeared in six games with one start before having surgery to repair his left knee lateral meniscus.

View exclusive black-and-white photos shot of Vikings players during the 2022-23 season by team photographer, Andy Kenutis.

O'Connell said that recovery "ends up being about a six-to-eight-month rehab."

"Tyler has talked to me a bunch about him," O'Connell said. "You see him a ton in the building with a smile on his face, which we love having those [Cine and Booth] working together, a big part of our nucleus being first- and second-round draft picks from a year ago that made somewhat of an impact.

"We're looking for those guys to make a huge impact here moving forward," O'Connell said. "[Booth] will probably be limited in OTAs but ready for training camp, so hopefully everything we're trying to do is building toward getting those guys on the progression that we like to do through the reps of OTAs to have them in peak shape leaving here and then understanding we'll have the ramp-up period early in training camp, and then we build up to that opener."