EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell has seemingly won over his players in the first few days that everyone has been back at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
And you can count Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen among his biggest fans.
The wide receivers each spoke to Twin Cities media members Tuesday afternoon, with each expressing a strong excitement for both O'Connell and his offensive vision.
"Just for him to come in and be a laid-back coach ready to change the whole program and get us back on that winning stage," Jefferson said. "We're all excited. We've seen so many new faces in here, so many new coaches.
"We have so much potential on this team," Jefferson added. "We're all ready to get this thing started back up."
Thielen said: "When you add in the coaching staff and the pieces they've put in place around the coaches and the players, it's a really exciting time."
When Jefferson found out the Vikings would be getting a new head coach this offseason, there were two pieces of criteria he looked at.
Are they an offensive or defensive mind? And are they able to connect with their players?
Jefferson said he's already noticed O'Connell, who is 36 years old with an offensive background, checking off those boxes.
"Just him being close [in age] to us, he can connect more with us," Jefferson said. "He has that younger vibe, so you know he'll play music in the locker rooms, play music in the meeting room before the meeting starts.
"All of that gets us into our comfort zone," Jefferson added. "It feels laid back coming back to work. It's just not all about business. It's about having fun doing what we love to do and coming to focus."
And while the Vikings are still a month or so away from actually getting on the field for spring practices, both receivers with Pro Bowls and All-Pro honors on their résumés have already envisioned what O'Connell's offense will look like.
Jefferson said this will be the first offensive-minded head coach he's ever had, while the same rings true for Thielen in his time in the NFL.
"There's a lot of different formations, moving guys around, putting guys in different spots," Thielen said. "I think some of the route stuff is more player-friendly probably, just to be able to kind of just go out there and feel the game, play the game. There's a lot more feel to it, rather than, 'You gotta do this at this point, at this time.'
"Not to say that there's a wrong way to do it, it's just different. Excited about that. Again, we haven't really talked about plays much, just kind of starting the basics right now, formations, and just kind of some terminology stuff," Thielen said. "But what I've seen from afar, it's definitely an offense that kind of just lets their players do what they do well and go and try to beat the coverage that they're throwing at us. Try to make things look difficult to the defense but easy for the offense."
Jefferson said he's already reviewed film of what O'Connell did in 2021 when he was the offensive coordinator for the Rams, who captured Super Bowl LVI.
"Seeing what Cooper Kupp did last year, him getting close to the record, him being so open so many times," Jefferson said. "There's a lot of things on film that I watched and looked at and I'm excited about this year.
"Even being in the meetings with him and him talking over schemes and different things he did with the Rams and things he's planning on doing with us, it's very exciting. I'm definitely excited to start the season – right now," Jefferson added.
Jefferson and Thielen hope to remain one of the league's top receiving duos, even as both are at different points in their careers.
Thielen will be 32 by the time the regular season starts. He was productive on the field with 10 touchdowns in 13 games in 2021, but he ended the season on Injured Reserve with an ankle injury.
The 10-year vet said he put in ample work this offseason to get his body back to a good spot.
"I'm probably feeling the lightest I've ever felt, and there's probably a reason behind that," Thielen said. "But yeah, I'm excited about the way I feel coming off an injury, coming off a surgery. I feel great, I'm excited to get back in here and just compete again and play football."
Jefferson, meanwhile, is only 22 and coming off a pair of monster seasons in his first two years in the NFL. His 3,016 total receiving yards are a record for any player through their first two seasons in the league, and he's tied for the most catches in that timespan with 196.
But the former LSU star said he's only looking forward.
View the best wide receiver photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.
"I'm over the rookie year, I'm over the second year, it's onto Year 3 now," Jefferson said. "There's a target on my back at this point. I'm planning on keeping on going up.
"They're always going to have players in the league that are going to try and stop me and what we've got going on," Jefferson said. "Really just buy in to what Coach [O'Connell] has got for us, putting me in different positions to get me open. Like I said, we're all excited for this new offense."
The hope is that the pair of receivers will team with O'Connell, quarterback Kirk Cousins and a host of other skill players to try and elevate Minnesota's offense to new heights.
If that happens, Jefferson and Thielen will likely play a major role in that ascension.
"This year it's just a clean slate. New coaches in the building, new faces, new players," Jefferson said. "So we're just starting out trying to all get connected as one, try to be a team.
"Pretty much everybody is here. We're all just trying to buy into the process, learn these plays as fast as possible, and get on that field as fast as possible," Jefferson added.