EAGAN, Minn. – Don't look now, but Minnesotans blinked and Adam Thielen became the old man in the Vikings receivers room.
Thielen will celebrate his 30th birthday on Aug. 22. The position group's next-oldest representative is Chad Beebe, who turned 26 in June.
Thielen will undoubtedly be looked to as one of the leaders of the offense. It's a role he doesn't shy away from; rather, it's one he's embraced over the past couple of seasons and will continue to step into. He also emphasized that his perceived role hasn't changed with Stefon Diggs being traded to Buffalo.
"I'm the same position, doing the same stuff," Thielen told media members via video conference Wednesday. "It's different not having him here, but we have a great group of guys and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with them.
"I've had so much fun these past couple of weeks being around them, so I'm looking forward to seeing these guys compete and trying to prove that I can still do it, as well," he added.
View photos of Vikings players who participated in workouts at TCO Performance Center.
One of the young bucks Thielen has been able to watch is first-round pick Justin Jefferson, who's traded in his LSU purple-and-gold for the same colors in a Vikings jersey.
Thielen noted that much of what he had seen from Jefferson was on tape, since the full team hadn't yet practiced together at the time of his media availability. The first full, non-padded session is scheduled for Friday.
"But it's been interesting to see his body control, the way he's able to go down and get a ball, go up and get a ball," Thielen said. "A ball's behind him and he's going and adjusting to that. It's pretty impressive, honestly. [I'm] excited to see him in person and to be around him more these next couple days just because, like I said, I've seen a lot from afar."
The new teammates were able to get briefly acquainted with one another earlier this summer when Jefferson joined Thielen for a few training sessions on a local field. Thielen reiterated Jefferson's ability to "really reach and stretch to catch the football."
"I think that's obviously a great attribute, and he's really, really good at that," Thielen said. "The more time I get to be around him, the more fun I have, because he's a really good football player."
The 2020 offseason has been a unique one, to be sure, with the cancelation of spring practices and shift to a virtual offseason program due to COVID-19. The pandemic also has caused a truncated training camp and the elimination of all four preseason games.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
Thielen, who made the team's practice squad as a tryout player in 2013 and cracked the roster in 2014, understands more than anyone the value that July and August can have for anyone vying for coveted roster spots. But he also understands that football isn't a game that allows for excuses.
"If this was the year that I came out, I wouldn't even be here. I'd have no chance – I wouldn't have even had an opportunity," Thielen said. "But at the end of the day, these guys that are in here right now, these rookies that are maybe drafted late or drafted early, they just have to take advantage of what's given to them."
He pointed to the silver lining of an all-virtual offseason program.
"Man, those guys have had more reps mentally than I probably had in my first couple years, total," Thielen said. "So if they were able to take advantage of that time, we'll be able to see that on Sundays, as well."
Thielen noted that the rookies have gone through installations of Minnesota's offense "probably six or seven times" in a classroom setting before hitting the fields at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
"If they can take advantage of that and just be able to go out there and play ball and really show what they can do, [it will show up]," he said. "Where a lot of guys fall off and don't have the success that they should is they can't go out there and play fast because they don't know the playbook, so they're spending most of their time trying to figure out, 'Oh shoot, what do I have?,' rather than just, 'This is what I'm going to do, how I'm going to beat them, attack them,' things like that, so I think they're in a great position right now.
"I've been able to watch their practices the last few days, and it's really exciting to see them compete and have fun doing it," Thielen added.
View the top photos of Vikings WR Adam Thielen from the 2019 season.
As the Vikings prepare for their season opener against the Packers in just over a month, Thielen hopes to be the same type of resource for younger players that former or current teammates have been for him.
"I love this game of football, and I love to teach it and to [share] what I've learned with these young guys," Thielen said. "I was talking to a couple of the guys the other day, just [saying] how much I took from certain guys that I've played with.
"If I can just be a resource, maybe it's just one thing that they take from me, I think that's pretty cool," he continued. "Because there were so many guys that played in front of me or came in the same year, or maybe came in after me, that I've taken little things from their game and implemented in mine."
So while he may be a little wiser and have a few more starts under his belt, Thielen is the same guy he's always been. The Minnesota native is going to leave it all out on the practice field, and he views every day as an opportunity to get better – and now to help those around him improve, as well.
Watch 'Vikings Training Camp Live' Today at 2:15 PM
Tune in today at 2:15 PM to watch live coverage of Verizon Vikings Training Camp from the TCO Performance Center. Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, Ben Leber and Greg Coleman will break down position battles and look ahead to the 2020 season.
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