GREEN BAY, WIS. — Any time a rookie makes his debut in the NFL, it’s going to be a memorable moment. But for Minnesota Vikings second-round pick Brian O’Neill, his first time on an NFL field game at Lambeau in the midst of one of the wildest games ever played between the Vikings and Green Bay Packers.
O’Neill was pushed into action when starting right tackle Rashod Hill went down in the fourth quarter of the Vikings’ 29-29 tie on Sunday. The former Pitt standout said the team’s preparation allowed him to be ready for the role.
“The stuff that we work on at practice carries over a lot, moreso than I ever saw in college,” O’Neill said. “The gameplan is so specific, the coaching is so in depth. The looks we got in practice this week were exactly what we expected coming in. For me that was refreshing to have prepared for something and then being out there and the first play happening and being like, ‘alright, this is what I prepared for.”
His first task as an NFL player was the block for Kick Cousins as he led a mad comeback from down 20-7 in the fourth. The Vikings scored 22 fourth quarter points en route to overtime and then had two cracks at a game-winning field goal — both of which were missed by Daniel Carlson.
”Kirk’s communication was spot on,” O’Neill said. “You could tell he was firing on all cylinders at that point because we’ve practiced that and it carried over from practice to the game.”
On his performance, O’Neill won’t truly know until he breaks down the film, but it’s clear he’s grown a great deal since Draft Day.
”First thoughts, yeah, I thought I came a long way, there’s still miles to go,” O’Neill said. “I have so many million details I have to worry about to get better and try and improve on.”
O’Neill credited his teammates for guiding his first go ‘round, especially with the pressure of the Vikings-Packers rivalry mounting late in the game.
“Big credit to Mike [Remmers] and Brett [Jones], their communication to me was spot on, it made it so much easier,” O’Neill said. “Mike was in my ear. He was like: ‘This is where we’re at, this is what we’re doing, this is when we’re going.’ Having Mike next to me really, really helped.”