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Vikings hopeful Brian O’Neill will be ready for 2023 after partially torn Achilles

O’Neill was hurt late in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers.

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Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O'Neill, left, pushes Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence on Nov. 20, 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium. O'Neill suffered a series injury during Minnesota's loss in Green Bay on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023.
Tom Fox / TNS file photo
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EAGAN, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings won’t have star right tackle Brian O’Neill for the playoffs, but at least there is optimism he will be ready for the start of next season.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell said Wednesday that O’Neill last Sunday at Green Bay suffered a partially torn Achilles tendon that will require surgery. The 2021 Pro Bowl selection was placed Tuesday on injured reserve.

“It was not a full Achilles injury, but it was an injury that did require it being repaired,’’ O’Connell said. “My understanding is he should be able to make a full recovery and be ready and hopefully available to start next season.”

O’Neill was hurt late in the first quarter while running after Darnell Savage, who returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown in the Packers’ 41-17 victory. He was replaced for the remainder of the game by Oli Udoh, who is in line to start Sunday’s regular-season finale at Chicago. Udoh could start in the playoffs, which get underway the weekend of Jan. 14-15, or it could be Blake Brandel, whom O’Connell expects then will be off injured reserve.

“Brian was so consistent for us in his role,’’ O’Connell said. “It’s going to be a hard thing to replace, especially that consistency, but what I’ve kind of challenged some of the our guys (with) is understanding the standard that Brian set at that position and what we can work to try to do to make sure we do our job.”

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Brian O'Neill

The Vikings also Tuesday put center Austin Schlottmann on injured reserve after he suffered a fractured left fibula above his ankle. He is out for the season and O’Connell said he also will have surgery.

Schlottmann had started the past four games with Garrett Bradbury out with a back injury. Bradbury sat out a walkthrough practice Wednesday. O’Connell said before the workout it had yet to be determined if Bradbury could play at Chicago and what his status might be for the playoffs.

“He is progressing and the hope is at some point soon we’ll be able to get him back some limited practices and then work his way into full participation before we get him back,” O’Connell said. “The hope is that we do get Garrett Bradbury back on our offensive line soon.”

Chris Reed took over at center when Schlottmann was hurt against the Packers on Minnesota’s fifth offensive play, and he struggled with cadence issues. But quarterback Kirk Cousins said Reed, a seven-year veteran, did well in Wednesday’s workout.

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Kevin O’Connell

“(Reed) is a guy who’s played a lot of football in this league and is a total pro,’’ Cousins said. “I felt that Chris was really dialed in (Wednesday). … I think a week is more than enough time to get (cadence issues) addressed. … Chris got thrown in there … at Lambeau Field in the noise, with so many different cadences.”

For depth at center, the Vikings on Tuesday signed veteran Greg Mancz. O’Connell said Mancz on Tuesday and Wednesday did a “great job trying to get up to speed if he were needed to step in.”

Cousins called it “very difficult” to lose O’Neill and Schlottmann. He said he is “grateful for Oli’s abilities” on the line as the immediate replacement for O’Neill.

O’Connell said Udoh was inserted in “a tough spot” at Green Bay and expects him to be better at Chicago with a week of preparation. However, Brandel was ahead of Udoh on the depth chart as the swing tackle before he suffered a torn MCL on Dec. 11 at Detroit. And O’Connell expects Brandel to be ready for the playoffs after he is eligible next week to come off injured reserve.

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“There is a very good chance we’ll get Blake back,” O’Connell said. “He’s done an excellent job in his recovery, and we thought when he got that injury he’d be right around that four-week mark, which allowed us to use that temporary IR tag. So I know Blake is doing everything he can to get back with his guys up front there as soon as possible.”

Bullard designated for return

The Vikings on Wednesday designated defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard to return from injured reserve and he was back at practice.

Bullard suffered a biceps injury Dec. 4 against the New York Jets and was placed on injured reserve Dec. 10. He missed four games, the minimum for a player placed on injured reserve.

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It remains to be seen if Bullard, who started seven of the 11 games he has played this season, will be activated to play Sunday at Chicago. A Bullard return could help make up for defensive lineman James Lynch being in line to miss his second straight game due to a shoulder injury. Lynch did not practice Wednesday.

Briefly

Cousins noted that the Vikings haven’t won an NFC North road game this season, having lost previously at Detroit and Green Bay. “Would love to make it happen this week,” he said of playing at Soldier Field. Cousins said the Vikings need to have a good performance “to get that bad taste out of our mouth” from the loss to the Packers. … The Vikings also listed as limited in practice Wednesday linebacker Brian Asamoah (knee) and safety Josh Metellus (thigh).

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