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Sirles Helped by Mentorship from Boone in 1st Major Action with Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Jeremiah Sirles has had his eye on Alex Boone since the veteran guard arrived at Winter Park this spring.

On Sunday, Sirles had Boone's back.

Sirles replaced Boone in the second quarter of Minnesota's 22-10 win at Carolina after Boone suffered a hip injury. Boone briefly went into the locker room before returning to the sideline and casting watchful eyes on Sirles.

"There were times when I knew I got beat on a play, and Boone was the first one staring me down," Sirles said. "He's looking at me like, 'Use your hands!' or yelling at me."

It was the first substantial game action in a Vikings uniform for Sirles, who was acquired in a trade with the Chargers at the start of the 2015 season. Sirles, 25, originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with San Diego but was quite familiar with Boone, 29, an undrafted free agent with San Francisco in 2009 who signed with Minnesota in March.

"I love Boone to death. He's a guy I've latched onto since he's been here," Sirles said. "He's a guy I look up to. I remember looking up to him when he played in San Francisco. I'm really glad that he's around to be a mentor."

Minnesota was the only team in the NFL to start the same five players on the offensive line in 2015, but that changed between Weeks 2 and 3 of this season when Matt Kalil was placed on injured reserve, and T.J. Clemmings replaced him at left tackle against the Panthers. 

Sirles, who played right guard for the Chargers in the final two games of 2014, continued to prepare in case he was needed last season. He's worked at both tackle and both guard spots, providing helpful versatility, especially on game days when teams are limited to 46 players.

"We went through all of last year with the same five guys, and within the first three weeks, we lose Matt, and then Boone goes down," Sirles said. "That's kind of the nature of the game in the NFL. It's about getting opportunity and what you do with that opportunity.

"I was ready for it this year. I always prepare like I'm going to play because you're always one snap away," Sirles said. "You never know how it's going to go or unfold, but you've got to make sure that when the opportunity does come, because they are few and far between in this league, that you're ready."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he appreciates the versatility that Sirles offers and said the Colorado native, who played collegiately for Nebraska, did well in his first major action with the Vikings.

The Vikings allowed just two sacks of Sam Bradford on 30 pass plays against Carolina and stayed committed to the run game, rushing 24 times. 

"We gave him a lot of work at guard [last week]," Zimmer said. "He went in there and did a really good job. He got to the second level, did a nice job in pass protection." 

Sirles said he's enjoyed Minnesota feeling more like home than Southern California did. He's also welcomed the crisp dip in temperature and changing leaves that have been part of all but one season he's played the sport.

He said he thought he "played pretty well" but also sees room for refinement.

"I've got things to clean up personally, and we've got things to clean up as an offensive line, but as a whole unit, we went out there and played better, not where we need to be but better than the week before," Sirles said.

Zimmer said Monday that Boone underwent an MRI and "should be OK" for the Vikings game against the New York Giants. Minnesota's players are off Wednesday but will practice for the first time this week on Thursday.

"I won't know [about Boone] until we get out there at practice, but from what I understand, he's feeling better," Zimmer said Monday.  

Sirles will be ready if needed at guard or tackle, despite the differences in the two positions.

"Everything happens so much quicker when you're at guard instead of tackle, but I thought I came in and played pretty well," Sirles said. "That's not the benchmark. You're always shooting to be better."

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