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NOTEBOOK: Thielen ‘Feels Good,’ Hopeful to Play Against Chiefs

EAGAN, Minn. — Adam Thielen hopes he is ready to go by kickoff Sunday in Kansas City.

“I feel good, I feel like it’s progressed,” Thielen said Thursday of his hamstring injury. “I’ll know more after practice, and I’ll be able to kind of judge where I’m at after practice today, and Friday, Saturday and really, Sunday before the game.

“In this league, it’s all about being close to 100 percent on game day,” Thielen added. “Luckily, I’ve got three more days to get to that point.”

Thielen could only watch and cheer from the sideline last week as Minnesota moved to 6-2 with a win on Thursday Night Football over Washington. The Vikings wide receiver had played in 90 straight games, including the playoffs.

“The guys played awesome, so it was fun to watch them,” Thielen said. “It was obviously a different lens than I’m used to.

“But there’s obviously a lot of positives I can take from it personally and as a position group and as a team,” Thielen added. “I’d rather be out there playing. But at the same time, I have to make sure I’m doing my role depending on whether I’m playing in the game or not.”

Thielen was injured in the Vikings Week 7 win at Detroit. He did not practice on the short week before Week 8, and was limited Wednesday and Thursday at practice.

Thielen was asked if he is more hopeful he can play Sunday against the Chiefs.

“I was pretty optimistic last week,” Thielen said with a smile. “I’m just trying to go have a good practice today and control what I can control.

“Just leave it up to the people in this organization that I trust to make that call,” Thielen added.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Thursday provided an update after Thursday’s practice.

“He’s doing all right,” Zimmer said. “We’ve been giving him a little bit here and there, so we’ll see.”

Thielen has 27 catches for 391 yards and a team-high six touchdown catches in 2019.

“I think it’s a way that God is testing me because I’m not very good with patience,” Thielen said. “But at the same time, we have great coaches here, great training staff … I’m just trusting them with the process and doing everything I can to get back at full [health] and get out there and help my teammates.”

Ready for Arrowhead’s loud crowd

Kyle Rudolph is one of eight Vikings players who have played at Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Chiefs.

He has plenty of fond memories from the trip.

“I haven’t played at Arrowhead since 2011,” Rudolph said. “When we played at Arrowhead, we were 0-3 and they were 0-3, so it was two pretty bad football teams … yet that place was rocking.

“Now going there this weekend with two good football teams and a big game, I anticipate it’s going to be even more raucous,” Rudolph added.

Vikings punter Britton Colquitt, who formerly resided in the AFC West with the Broncos, has played six career games in Kansas City, the most of any current Viking.

Guard Josh Kline played there twice with Tennessee, getting a win both times, including a 22-21 comeback win in the Wild-Card Round in January of 2018.

Kline said there’s nothing like playing at the venue that set a new Guinness World Record in September of 2014 when the decibel level was recorded at 142.2. For reference, a live rock band often hits 140 decibels while on stage.

“It’s loud no matter what, regular season or the playoffs,” Kline said. “I mean, they broke the world record for the loudest stadium, so it’s a loud place to play.

“But it’s also a fun place to play,” Kline added.

Rudolph and Everson Griffen were with the Vikings when they last played in Kansas City back in 2011. Meanwhile, others such as Kirk Cousins, Linval Joseph, Ameer Abdullah and Riley Reiff played at Arrowhead while with other teams.

The veteran tight end said the team has been preparing for the environment this week at practice.

“The crowd noise and the music in the indoor [practice facility] is up as loud as it can go,” Rudolph said. “You just have to understand you’re not going to hear the person next to you.”

Vikings rookie tight end Irv Smith, Jr., is one of dozens of Vikings players who have never played at Arrowhead.

But he does know of its reputation.

“Everything I’ve heard is that it’s one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL,” said Smith, Jr. “Tough place to play at, but I’m super excited to play at such a great place.

“It’s us against the world basically,” he added. “They’re going to have all their fans there; it will be packed and loud as ever.”

Smith, Jr., said the loudest opposing stadium he’s ever played in was at LSU in November of 2018 while with Alabama.

But he noted that after the Crimson Tide built a double-digit halftime lead on the way to a 29-0 win, it didn’t feel as loud.

“LSU night games against ’Bama are a whole other story,” said Smith, Jr. “Last year when we played there, it started out loud. But then people started leaving at the end of the game.”

Wary of KC’s special teams

Since the start of the 2013 season, the Chiefs have 11 total touchdown returns on special teams.

That coincides with the arrival of Andy Reid in Kansas City, but also Dave Toub, who is regarded as one of the league’s top special teams coordinators.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf certainly has some admiration for the man on the other sideline.

“This coach has been doing it for a long time, have a lot of respect for him,” Maalouf said of Toub. “They’ve always been very good in the return game. We have our work cut out for us.

“That’s what we’re practicing the most, is trying to keep those guys contained,” Maalouf added.

On a team that features plenty of speed, rookie Mecole Hardman is currently tasked with punt and kickoff return duties.

“They have a really good crew returning,” Maalouf said, “No 17 … he’s explosive.”

Hardman has 74 yards on three punt returns, and is averaging 22.3 yards per kickoff return.

Kansas City also has Tyreek Hill at its disposal if needed. The speedster has four career punt returns for scores, plus a kickoff return for a touchdown.

The Vikings last allowed a return for a touchdown in Week 17 of the 2017 season when Chicago used a trick play to score on a 59-yard punt return.

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