‘Most pain I’ve been in’: Vikings’ O’Neill suffered broken bone in foot

Right tackle Brian O'Neill's absence from the Vikings' 30-20 loss to the Lions on Sunday was not a case of an injured veteran taking the first chance to rest once the playoffs were likely out of reach.

"No, there was a small fracture in one of the bones in my foot," O'Neill said Monday. "So, yeah, it wasn't my choice to not play this week. If there's a chance, I'm going to be out there."

O'Neill's teammates voted the 28-year-old team captain as this season's Ed Block Courage Award recipient in the days after he played all 53 snaps through the foot fracture in a Dec. 31 loss to the Packers. He suffered the injury on Dec. 10 in Las Vegas, where head coach Kevin O'Connell said it was a left ankle sprain.

O'Neill played on the left foot fracture almost exactly a year after a partially torn right Achilles ended his 2022 season. But the Achilles injury wasn't nearly as bad as this, he said.

"Objectively, it was probably the most pain I've been in in my life," O'Neill said. "But it was a do or die playoff game. If it was possible for me to do the job, I'm going to be out there. We got another image on it [Jan. 1], and the team orthos were just saying, 'There's no way, you shouldn't try this again. You're playing,' I guess the term was, 'Russian roulette with something bad happening.' "

O'Neill has a durable reputation, having appeared in 95 games and missing just five games to injuries. He missed a career-high three games to the foot fracture, which wasn't the only issue in 14 starts this season.

"There was more management throughout this year than other years," O'Neill said, "instead of pushing to keep elevating in terms of your body and how you're recovering and how you're being able to push in the weight room."

Osborn among free agents

Receiver K.J. Osborn is one of 20 unrestricted free agents, many of whom just played their last game under contract for the Vikings. He had 48 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games, but also a team-high seven drops, according to Pro Football Focus. The contract year and uncertainty may not be irrelevant.

"I think it was something that was really on my mind all season, but I kind of have learned to just control what I can," Osborn said. "We'll just see how it kind of shakes out."

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Osborn, a 2020 fifth-round pick, said he'd like to re-sign with the Vikings, but he's also looking forward to free agency.

"I've worked my whole life to be able to do something really great for my family," he said, "and at the end of the day, I'm in the NFL. I'm blessed. I'm very grateful for this position I'm in, and I'm excited."

Ham's NFC rival

Fullback C.J. Ham, a Duluth native, said he'll seek sunshine in Orlando with his family this offseason with the hope he'll get the nod to the Pro Bowl. Ham was voted as a first alternate on the NFC roster for what he said was a fifth straight year behind 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, an eight-time Pro Bowler.

Ham would obviously rather be with the Vikings in the Super Bowl, but he joked that his stats would've gotten a boost if the 49ers would've been a dynasty. Ham attended the 2019 Pro Bowl when Juszczyk couldn't go because the 49ers were in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs.

"I could've been a four-time Pro Bowler," Ham joked.

One for the road

Lions quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's last NFL regular season jersey was hanging in Vikings safety Harrison Smith's locker at TCO Performance Center in Eagan on Monday. Bridgewater, the Vikings' 2014 first-round pick, has said he's retiring at the end of this season. Smith, 34, might join him after 12 seasons.

Vikings re-sign 10 from practice squad

The Vikings re-signed 10 practice squad players to reserve/future contracts, or placeholder deals that only players who weren't on the 53-man roster or other reserve lists are eligible to sign. They were running back DeWayne McBride, receivers Thayer Thomas, Trishton Jackson and N'Keal Harry, linebacker Abraham Beauplan, tackle Coy Cronk, guards Henry Byrd and Tyrese Robinson, and cornerbacks Joejuan Williams and Jaylin Williams.