EAGAN, Minn. – Plenty of changes have accompanied the move of Vikings Verizon Training Camp from Mankato to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
One thing remains the same, however: Regardless of location, Adam Thielen is going to give it his all.
Evidence of Thielen’s effort showed up in grass stains on his jersey and white pants under his shorts after Minnesota’s first full-team practice of camp.
This summer marks the first in 10 years that Thielen hasn’t been in Mankato prepping for an upcoming season.
A Detroit Lakes native, Thielen attended Minnesota State University, Mankato, before joining the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He admitted that it feels a little strange to not have reported to his old stomping grounds Friday but said Saturday’s practice at the new digs “felt pretty good.”
“I think OTAs, we did a really good job of taking advantage of that time, and today felt like we didn’t miss a beat from the last practice ’til now. Feeling pretty good,” Thielen told media members. “Obviously a long ways to go – there’s a lot of plays I wish I had back today – but that’s why we’re out here practicing, and that’s why we don’t go straight to a game.”
Among plays that went well was a long pass Thielen caught from his new quarterback.
Kirk Cousins pumped once, twice, then released the ball deep to Thielen, who hauled in the pass over rookie cornerback Holton Hill along the left sideline.
The play drew quite a reaction from fans sitting in the nearby bleachers, but Thielen was more concerned about the response from Cousins, whom he’s been building chemistry with since the spring. Thielen pointed out that each completed pass in practice builds a foundation of trust that prepares the duo for when points are real and the score matters.
“I’m just trying to make sure that I’m making those plays to give him some confidence throwing it my way,” Thielen said. “[Stefon] Diggs and I talk about that a lot – trying to make those plays so we get more of those opportunities.
“That’s one thing that’s really cool about building that connection with the quarterback – it doesn’t just come. It doesn’t just happen with time,” Thielen continued. “It happens with making plays. So that gives you another added incentive to go out there and try to grind and try to compete and do your best, so that you can get more of those opportunities in games.”
Thielen is entering his third season as a starter in Purple and also third consecutive season with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator.
When asked about adapting so often, he responded that each quarterback has things that he does especially well. He pointed out also that it’s important to learn the different tendencies of each passer.
“Whether it be a deep ball, a short ball, they all throw it a little different. So just trying to figure out what they like guys to do and how they like routes ran and certain situations, and then just getting a good feel for where they’re looking and when the ball’s going to come out and things like that,” Thielen said. “We obviously had a good jumpstart when we went out to Atlanta, with OTAs and now coming back to training camp – it’s been great.”
After learning under Norv Turner, then Pat Shurmur and now Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo, the high-energy leader whom the Vikings hired in February, Thielen is used to acclimating there, as well, and called it exciting to do so.
According to Thielen, the rotation has “kept football fresh.”
“I love this game,” he said. “It’s exciting to learn new plays, and schematically we’re doing a lot of different things than I’ve done in the past. That’s exciting. It’s another challenge to try to master those things and figure out what Coach Flip likes in a receiver.”
Added Thielen: “It’s a challenge, but as a receiver, as a competitor, that’s what you want.”