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NOTEBOOK: Thielen Says Thursday Was a 'Win' for His Health

EAGAN, Minn. — Adam Thielen on Thursday was a limited participant in practice for the second day in a row.

That's a positive in Thielen's book, as the Vikings wide receiver continues to deal with a nagging hamstring injury he suffered while making a touchdown catch in Detroit in Week 7.

"Honestly right now, I'm just taking it one day at a time. I'm focusing on today," Thielen said. "Today was a win for me, just getting back out there.

"Just focusing on the day … and tomorrow is the same thing," Thielen said. "Just focus on that day and see how it goes and go from there."

The two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver met with the Twin Cities media on Thursday to give an update on his status for whether or not he will play Sunday in Los Angeles.

Thielen said he was optimistic but wanted to finish out the week on a high note. That includes avoiding any more setbacks, something he has dealt with in the past.

Thielen attempted to return in Week 9 against Kansas City, but played just seven snaps. He hasn't seen the field since.

He was listed as questionable for a Week 13 game against Seattle, but wad downgraded to out in the days leading up to the game. He was listed as doubtful for this past Sunday's game against the Lions.

"Just getting out there and feeling good, but then having setbacks," Thielen said. "I obviously wasn't ready to play.

"Just wasn't ready to go. I couldn't do my job at the level I needed to do to be successful and help our team," Thielen added. "If I can't go 100 percent, I can't do my job and I can't play."

Thielen has 27 catches for 391 yards in 2019, and is still tied for the team-lead with six touchdown catches.

The Minnesota native had played in every Vikings game from 2014 to 2018 on offense or special teams before enduring a frustrating 2019 campaign.

"I've learned a lot about myself, about the process, about the injury, about different resources. There's a lot that goes into it," Thielen said. "But when you never miss a game, you don't have to worry about that. I've learned how to be patient and smart and the progression and things like that."

Thielen said he's tried to be any type of resource possible in recent weeks, especially to young receivers who have stepped up in his place.

But if Thielen returns Sunday, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said he would be a welcome addition to the offense.

"We've been doing pretty good. I'd like to think that Adam Thielen is going to help our offense," Cousins said. "If nothing else, the corners, safeties and linebackers have to honor the fact that he's on the field opposite Stefon Diggs.

"You have to be aware of that many more people who have put good stuff on tape in the past," Cousins added.

Thielen, for one, would gladly resume his starting role.

"Being smart, taking the right progression to get back on the field on Sunday," Thielen said. "Everything has gone well so far, and I'm very happy with the progression. We'll see how tomorrow goes."

Maalouf has experience at unique venue

The Vikings will play at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday, a venue unlike any they have seen this season.

The stadium is primarily used for soccer and is the home to the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer. The venue only seats roughly 27,000 people.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf is a veteran of sorts with the place.

"It's definitely a different place. This will be my third time going there, but some of our guys have never been there yet," Maalouf said. "It's a very unique place.

"As far as the field goes, it's mostly been for soccer. It's not a bad field, they maintain it very well," Maalouf later added. "But we play most of our games on turf, so we've got to adapt to that and having a good, solid pregame is important for our specialists. The whole place poses a different atmosphere. It's a lot different. It's small."

Because of the smaller feel, Maalouf implored Vikings fans that are coming to be loud and be a factor on Sunday.

"I'm hoping our fans travel well, since it's a nice place to visit this weekend," Maalouf said. "I'm hoping they're all excited to come out there because you can definitely feel their presence if they do."

View practice images from the Vikings practice on Dec. 12 at the TCO Performance Center.

Eyeing a defensive trio

It's been quite clear this week that the Vikings are focused on three specific players on the Chargers defense.

Defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have combined for 16.0 sacks, while Vikings Heda Coach Mike Zimmer called safety Derwin James a "game-wrecker" on Wednesday.

A day later, there was still plenty of chatter about the trio from Kyle Rudolph and Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski.

"For me, the three guys that jump off the page immediately are both edge rushers and then getting Derwin back is a huge lift for that defense," Rudolph said. "Derwin was an All-Pro safety as a rookie, so he's all over the field, flying around, making a ton of plays. They're of that Seattle descendant, they bend and don't break.

"We have our work cut out for us. You look back at all the close games they've lost, we talked about this a couple of weeks ago with Denver," Rudolph added. "You look at records, and a lot of times they're not indicative of how good a team is."

Stefanski said of James: "Very physical player. He's down around the line of scrimmage quite often. He can play the run like a linebacker. He can play the pass like a corner, so a physically gifted player. What's really impressive about this player, is he plays really hard all the time. He's flying around there, quintessential ball hawk and he's got our attention."

James missed the first 12 weeks of the season with a foot injury. Bosa has 10.5 sacks in 2019, while Ingram has 5.5.

The edge rushers made the Pro Bowl together in 2017.

Honoring Payton's legacy

Rudolph was announced as the Vikings 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Nominee on Thursday morning, marking the third year in a row the Vikings tight end has been selected.

He thoroughly enjoys doing tireless community work around the Twin Cities with his family and said there's a special bonus about being nominated for the award, which is named after former Bears running back Walter Payton.

Rudolph said Thursday that he's also gotten to know the Payton family.

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph hosted his annual "Christmas Holiday Huddle" at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. Vikings players joined for an afternoon of fun and holiday-themed activities.

"Being nominated the past two years has allowed me to get to know Mrs. Payton, has allowed be to get to know their two kids and his legacy," Rudolph said. "Obviously, everybody knows his legacy as a player, but when you learn about how much he cared about that community and how much he did for kids, everybody knows that that's what we're extremely passionate about.

"The more we've gotten to know about Walter Payton's legacy, you see why it's the Walter Payton Man of the Year award," Rudolph said.

Payton was a nine-time Pro Bowl running back with the Bears who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. The NFL's Man of the Year Award was first bestowed with Payton's name in 1999, when Vikings Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter earned the honor.

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