EAGAN, Minn. — The kid from Detroit Lakes isn’t going anywhere, and he couldn’t be happier.
A day after officially signing a multi-year contract extension, Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen met with the Twin Cities media Tuesday to discuss his new deal.
“Obviously, money is good and everything, but championships are what it’s about,” Thielen said. “Maybe a little bit, too, of feeling appreciated more than the fact that they paid me this amount of money.
“But like I said, it’s all about winning, it’s all about giving back, and it’s all about being in a situation that you feel comfortable in. When you find a locker room like we have and you have guys like that, you don’t want to go somewhere else,” Thielen added. “You want to be here, and you want to be here for a long time. That’s what my family and I are most excited about.”
The Vikings chose to reward Thielen after the Minnesota native made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons and was an All-Pro selection in 2017.
Thielen set career marks with 113 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018, a year in which he set an NFL record by recording at least 100 receiving yards in eight games to open the season.
The 28-year-old has 273 receptions for 3,616 yards and 18 touchdowns over the past three seasons, which averages out to 90-plus catches for 1,200-plus yards and six scores a season.
Thielen’s story is well-known, as he went from college walk-on to a standout at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He then joined the Vikings via a tryout as an undrafted rookie, making the practice squad before going from special teams ace to now being one of the league’s top wide receivers.
“I don’t know if there has ever been a success story like Adam Thielen,” said Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman. “We were just talking coming down, three weeks from now [six years ago] he was looking to try to get in to someone’s camp. I know he came in on a tryout basis, we were very fortunate that he picked us over probably a couple of the other camps that he had an opportunity to go to.
“The minute he walked on to that field at Winter Park you could tell this guy had a chance to be something. He’s a great example for all those kids out there who say dreams don’t come true,” Spielman added. “You may not be the biggest or the fastest or the most recognized, but you can’t measure a person’s heart. What Adam Thielen brings to this football team, not only is his natural ability, but a lot of heart. He does just as much showing his heart and his family on everything he does off the field as well.”
Thielen’s teammates were also thrilled one of the team’s most likeable players was staying in Purple.
“It’s awesome,” said Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. “Just his whole story and to have been here the whole time, seen how hard he worked to make the team, to get from practice squad to playing special teams, [then] going from being a standout special teams player to a good receiver and now one of the best receivers in the NFL. It’s been a lot of fun to see Adam grow over the years from where he started as a tryout guy in rookie minicamp to one of the best and highest-paid receivers in football.”
Added Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins: “What makes Adam Thielen good? And it’s like, well, you name a receiver trait, and he’s good at it. So I guess maybe the reason he’s good is because he’s not bad at stuff? He’s fast, he’s got agility, he catches the ball well, he’s smart, he’s competitive. I don’t know what his weakness is, I guess would be a better answer.”
Thielen said Tuesday that he doesn’t have any plan for any large purchases, only that he wants to give back to the communities that helped him along the way.
He also doesn’t plan on changing the underdog mindset that has gotten him this far.
“Honestly, I’m going to take the same approach,” Thielen said. “I’ve been able to step back and figure out what things on the field and off the field that I need to do better and now I got to go and attack that and try to be the best teammate I can be, try to be the best leader I can be and let everything else play itself out.
“At this point, that’s all you can do,” Thielen added. “There’s only so many things you can control and everything else you just got to let it play out.”
Mannion welcomes challenge of competition
One of the newest faces on the roster also stepped to the podium Tuesday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, and he left little doubt that he’s here to compete.
Quarterback Sean Mannion signed with Minnesota on Monday after spending the previous four seasons as the Rams backup.
Mannion is expected to battle Kyle Sloter for the backup job behind Cousins. Bring it on, he said.
“I’m always competing. My mentality is that I’m always competing and always trying to play my best football,” said the 26-year-old Mannion. “The opportunity to work with Kirk and Kyle, I think it’s a great quarterback room. My goal is to be a great backup and be a great asset to this team and be ready to go in and win a game.
“Further from that, also support Kirk in however I can and help him prepare. That’s the role I want,” Mannion added. “My mentality since I got into the league is that I always compete.”
Mannion, a third-round pick in 2015 out of Oregon State, has appeared in 10 NFL games and started one, which came in the 2017 regular-season finale after the Rams had secured a playoff berth.
The 6-foot-6 signal-caller completed 20 of 34 passes for 169 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in a 34-13 loss in Week 17 to the 49ers.
Mannion, who has completed 33 of 53 total pass attempts in his career, has thrown for 258 yards.
Kendricks ready to bounce back from late 2018 injury
The entire Vikings roster felt the sting of disappointment at the end of the 2018 season that did not include a playoff appearance.
But it was a little more personal for Eric Kendricks, as the linebacker missed the final two games of the year with a hamstring injury.
“I thought if we made the playoffs and had a little run that I’d be able to come back and contribute,” Kendricks said Tuesday. “But for it to end like that, it was weird for me.
“It was kind of an abrupt thing, very unexpected when it happened,” Kendricks added. “It definitely sucked, but I’ve been working and training to hopefully prevent that.”
Kendricks led the team in tackles for the fourth straight season, racking up 122 total tackles (according to team stats) along with five tackles for loss, two interceptions, a sack, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.