In October, when Washington running back Adrian Peterson was preparing to play a game in Minnesota for likely the final time, many of his ex-Vikings teammates were saying glowing things about him.
But not Alex Boone.
Boone was a boisterous NFL offensive lineman from 2009-17, including with the Vikings in 2016. That was the last of Peterson’s nine seasons with Minnesota, one in which he battled injuries and rushed for just 72 yards in three games.
Boone now is a radio analyst and has continued to live in the Twin Cities. He is on the Purple Daily show on SKOR North (KSTP-AM 1500) two days a week for three hours. Leading up to Peterson’s Oct. 24 return to U.S. Bank Stadium, Boone was asked by show host Matthew Coller his impressions of the seven-time Pro Bowl selection.
Boone criticized Peterson’s work ethic in 2016 and said he was a “very self-centered player and it bothered me.’’ He pointed to the final game Peterson played for the Vikings, against Indianapolis in December 2016, and said he “ran the wrong way on a power and fumbled the ball and blamed it on the line.’’
Boone received some criticism for his comments. Brandon Fusco, a Minnesota guard from 2011-16, wrote on Twitter that Boone was a “fake tough guy” who needed “to look in the mirror” and that Peterson was “one of the better teammates I had.’’
“I called (Fusco) to see what was up, and he was upset and I told him my story and he told me his, and we were like, ‘All right, cool.’ ’’ Boone said in an interview. “That was it.’’
Boone stands by what he said then and what he regularly has said on the air. With the Vikings (10-5) coming off an ugly 23-10 loss at home against Green Bay on Monday, Boone was plenty critical of their performance.
Boone said on the air that the offensive line, regardless of running back Dalvin Cook being out with a shoulder injury, was “just not showing up to play.’’ He was especially critical of the play of center Garrett Bradbury and left guard Pat Elflein, and said they have been an ongoing issue.
Boone said on the air it looked “stupid” that the Vikings abandoned against the Packers much of what they do well on offense. He brought up quarterback Kirk Cousins’ record falling to 0-9 on Monday Night Football and speculated about Vikings coach Mike Zimmer being “like, ‘You know, I’m still not a believer’ ” in Cousins.
Boone this season, though. has been complimentary at times of Cousins, in the second year of a three-year, $84 million contract. He has called left tackle Brian O’Neill “really special,’’ has said linebacker Eric Kendricks is deserving of NFL Defensive MVP, has lauded the play of rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. and has said offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has what it takes to be a good NFL head coach.
Whatever he says, for Boone it’s all about being honest.
“It’s really trying to get through all the nonsense and garbage that you hear on game day because sometimes I feel like these announcers blow a lot of smoke and it’s like, listen, you don’t always have to listen to those guys,’’ Boone said. “Sometimes, you can make up your own opinion. You know what football looks like. If it doesn’t look good to you and they’re telling you it is, they’re clearly lying to you. You can have your own opinion about it.’’
Boone, 32, is on the Purple Daily Show from 3-4 p.m. on Tuesdays and 2-4 p.m. on Thursdays. He also is regularly on Sirius XM NFL Radio, has made appearances on NFL Network and has a regular gig on a San Francisco radio station. Boone played for the 49ers from 2009-15; he was a starter in their 34-31 loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII after the 2012 season.
Former Vikings offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles has listened to Boone often on the radio. Sirles, who played at Nebraska and has hosted radio shows in Lincoln, Neb., has appeared three times on SKOR North along with Boone.
“Alex does a great job,’’ Sirles said. “I think he transitions really well to the media game. He’s knowledgeable. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s honest, which is what you love to hear. You don’t want to hear all of the coachspeak or any of that. You want to hear honest true opinions based off facts, and I think Alex does a really nice job of that.’’
Sirles played for Minnesota from 2015-17 and is now a free agent while he rehabs from recent ankle surgery. He was with the Vikings when they signed Boone in March 2016 to a four-year, $26.8 million contract.
Boone immediately was plugged in as the starter at left guard, but that season did not end up going well. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was lost just before the start of the regular season with a devastating knee injury suffered in practice, and the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford to replace him. After a 5-0 start, Minnesota collapsed and failed to make the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Injuries were a huge factor. In addition to Peterson and Bridgewater being hurt, the Vikings had numerous injuries on the offensive line.
“It was tumultuous, to be honest,’’ Boone said.
Hampered by season-ending injuries to Matt Kalil and Jake Long, the Vikings went through five left tackles that season. Boone, who had played that position at times with success for the 49ers, offered to move to left tackle and admits now he was frustrated the Vikings didn’t give him that chance.
Overall, Boone admitted his play in 2016 at left guard “could have been better.’’ Among 85 NFL guards, Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 50 that season.
But there was plenty of optimism about the offensive line entering the 2017 season. The Vikings had signed left tackle Riley Reiff and right tackle Mike Remmers to big free agent deals and selected Elflein in the third round to then be the starting center.
As it turned out, the line that season did not include Boone. He was surprisingly released on Sept. 2, 2017, when rosters were cut down to the limit of 53. The Vikings had elected to go with Nick Easton, who finished 2016 as the starting center, at left guard.
“It came way out of left field,’’ said Boone, who didn’t know his job was in jeopardy until the day final cuts were made. “I can’t tell you how many relationships will forever be ruined because of how far out of left field it came. Like never speak to people again.’’
Boone was due to make $6.6 million that season, with $3.4 million guaranteed. The Vikings offered him a chance to stay on the roster if he took a pay cut, but he declined.
“It could have been done way differently, and had it been resolved differently, I think that we all would have come to an agreement,’’ Boone said. “But I just didn’t feel like it was done in a proper way, and so, I was like, ‘Listen, at this point I’m good, I can move on with my life.’ I just didn’t like the way it went down, and I thought it was kind of disrespectful.’’
Boone declined to say who with the Vikings he was referring to and said he also was displeased with “even people in my camp.’’
Minnesota’s offensive line coach then was Tony Sparano, who died in July 2018. Boone said he had great respect for Sparano but never did speak to him again after he was released.
Zimmer declined to discuss Boone’s tenure with the team and said he hasn’t listened to his radio show.
“I have zero relationship with the Vikings,’’ Boone said when asked if he now has a relationship with the team.
Boone said he never had any regrets about turning down a pay cut to stay with the Vikings, who went 13-3 in 2017 and made it to the NFC Championship Game.
“I don’t need the money,’’ he said. “I don’t need anything. I just want respect.”
Although his tenure didn’t end well, Sirles said Boone was an asset to the Vikings.
“I just remember him being a tremendous teammate and an even better friend,’’ Sirles said. “I worked out with him and he really helped me grow as a player. I ended up starting 10 games that year, and he was right alongside me giving me advice.’’
After being cut by the Vikings, Boone joined the Arizona Cardinals for the 2017 season. He said he could have continued to play after that but decided to step away from the game.
“You get these calls and they’re like, ‘Hey, do you want to come work out?’ ’’ Boone said. “But I say, ‘I’m good where I’m at. I’ve got four kids, a wife.’ … And you start doing a little media stuff, and it’s a lot of fun.’’
Boone has continued to live in Eden Prairie with wife Dana and his children, ranging in age from 1 to 8. He spends a lot of time taking the kids to ballet and hockey practices, and even has a hockey rink in his backyard.
Boone began to really get interested in broadcasting when he went to the NFL’s Broadcast Boot Camp in Bowling Green, Ohio, in 2017. He joined SKOR North in August after his agent reached out to the station and asked if there was interest.
“The first hour that he did, so many listeners tweeted us and sent us emails about how much they enjoyed his energy and his analysis,’’ Coller said. “He has taken this job so seriously and brought great energy to it, great research to it when it comes to watching all the film and breaking things down.’’
Coller called Boone’s honesty refreshing.
“It’s very rare that you get an unfiltered former player,’’ Coller said. “A lot of times they still want to protect their ex-teammates. … I think he believes in telling his experiences in the NFL as they were and not trying to tell them through rose-colored glasses.’’
When Boone played for the Vikings, he was boisterous. For that reason, veteran Minnesota linebacker Anthony Barr isn’t surprised he has ended up in the media.
“I could definitely see him being on the radio,’’ Barr said. “He’s a big personality, colorful commentary, but he was a fun guy to be around. He kept things interesting for sure.’’
With SKOR North, Boone usually does the show from the basement in his home. He talks about other NFL teams, but most of his time is spent discussing the Vikings.
“I’m sure a lot of people get ticked off from what I say on the air,’’ Boone said. “But, listen, people are going to be pissed off regardless of what you say. … But that’s how I feel. Should I lie to you? Do you want me to sit here and make you feel good? … I feel the way I feel about things. I’m not sorry if I piss people off.’’
Boone said it “drives me crazy that you have such a great team’’ and the Vikings often “don’t show up in the big games.’’ They went 1-6 in 2018 against teams that finished the year with a winning record and are 1-4 this season against teams that currently have a winning mark.
Entering Sunday’s regular-season finale against Chicago at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings are locked into the No. 6 seed in the NFC. Boone believes it will be critical for the long-term future of Cousins to win a playoff game next weekend on the road.
“The narrative about Kirk is it is what is,’’ Boone said. “It’s 0-9, and it’s hard to look away from that sometimes. … I think that if Kirk doesn’t win a playoff game here, I don’t know if his future looks as bright as people think it is. … It’s a team game, but if you’re paying somebody (that much money), they have to at least get you through one big game. At least one.’’
Boone no doubt will have plenty to say about Cousins on the air during and after the playoffs. Coller said he will be with the station at least through the NFL draft in April.
“I’m a little more honest than most people,’’ Boone said. “And while sometimes I don’t mean for my words to cut so deep. I just say it as I see it.’’