Vikings captain gives first public comments on Kirk Cousins leaving

Atlanta Falcons QB Kirk Cousins
Atlanta Falcons QB Kirk Cousins / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman and captain Brian O’Neill was one of the biggest supporters of Kirk Cousins returning to the team heading into his pending free agency this year.

But after his first public comments since Cousins signed with the Atlanta Falcons, O’Neill understands that his former quarterback’s decision to head south was just business.

“It’s the same as any other teammate who moves on,” O’Neill said on Monday. “You call them and wish them well and hope they play bad when they play us.”

Brian O'Neill ready to "chase something really special" with the Minnesota Vikings

O’Neill was drafted by the Vikings in the second round of the 2018 draft, just over a month after Cousins signed his first contract in free agency. O’Neill spent the next six seasons with Cousins as his quarterback and vouched for his return while cleaning out his locker last January.

“Absolutely,” O’Neill told reporters via ESPN’s Kevin Siefert. “...One thousand million percent. I’d tell anybody that. 10,000 percent. I’d rather have nobody else than Kirk under center for us.”

O’Neill also said he would “gladly share his thoughts” to the front office for Cousins’s return “because I feel strongly about him.”

O’Neill’s opinion fell on deaf ears, however, as the Vikings weren’t willing to match the four-year, $180 million contract with $100 million guaranteed that Cousins signed with the Falcons a few months later. The Vikings replaced Cousins with Sam Darnold in free agency but are widely considered to be aggressive in finding a long-term solution in next month’s NFL Draft.

While Cousins’s departure could make for a very interesting decision, O’Neill said he hasn’t studied which quarterback could replace Cousins as Minnesota’s franchise signal caller next season.

“I used to get into the draft a ton in my first couple of years and try to think who we’re going to take and who the guys are and now I have no idea,” O’Neill said. “I’m probably more removed in the past couple of offseasons than I was at the beginning and whoever shows up, let’s go. Let’s get ready to roll and have a good time and go chase something really special here.”

O’Neill also feels like the Vikings have enough leadership to withstand the loss of Cousins at quarterback.

“There’s a lot of us who have been here in this offense since this coaching staff got here, so it’s on us to pick up our game and pick up our pace of installing the offense and understanding and taking it to new levels and see where it’s going to grow and develop,” O’Neill said. “Obviously, we have a ton of playmakers and a really good O-Line, so there’s guys that have been here and done it, so it’s going to be on everybody to collectively raise their game and raise their knowledge level so everything doesn’t all fall on one guy.”

While O’Neill will be supportive of his former quarterback, he’ll have an opportunity to hope he doesn’t do well when the Vikings are scheduled to face the Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium this upcoming season.

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