EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer isn't standing on the sidelines during Organized Team Activities this week, but Adam Thielen isn't approaching practices any differently.
Thielen said he's glad that Zimmer is taking some time away from the team to focus on recovering from an eighth eye surgery. Even being a 12-hour drive away, however, Zimmer has an effect on his players.
"We know he's here, because we know he's watching everything," Thielen said of Zimmer, who has been cleared to continue watching practice film. "He'll get after us if we're not doing things right."
Added Thielen: "We definitely feel his presence."
Thielen is entering his fourth season on the Vikings active roster and fifth since he made the team as an undrafted free agent and spent 2013 on the practice squad. He quickly worked his way up to play a key role on Minnesota's offense, finishing 2016 just shy of a 1,000-yard season. In March, the Vikings signed Thielen to a multi-year contract.
Even with the added responsibility and increased performance, Thielen is focused on taking each day in stride.
"The more days you can get out here and have a good practice, the more comfortable you're going to be," Thielen said. "[But] I think 'comfortable' probably isn't the best word, because if you're comfortable, you're not getting better."
Thielen added that Zimmer reminds the team not to get complacent but rather be looking for ways to get better.
View images from the second of ten OTA practices at Winter Park.
"We shouldn't be comfortable because we didn't make the playoffs last year," Thielen said. "We have a long ways to go, and that's why we're out here."
From his college career at Minnesota State University, Mankato, to now, it's been important to Thielen not to change his mentality or his goals. He lives in the moment, saying he doesn't dedicate much time to last year's results.
That being said, he has his eye on some specific improvements for 2017. Thielen said he knows that along with a larger role on offense comes more attention from an opponent's defense – and he wants to be prepared.
"I feel like there were times when I maybe wasn't running the best routes, and I was getting away with it," Thielen said. "But guys know me now. They've seen film on me, and they're going to know my tendencies, so I need to make sure I'm bringing my best game."
Another objective of Thielen's is to continue building on the chemistry that he and quarterback Sam Bradford established in 2017. Bradford joined the team less than two weeks before making his first start, forcing a need to quickly develop cohesion.
Thielen caught 65 Bradford passes last season en route to a career-best 967 yards, but the connection isn't something he takes for granted.
"I think trust is important with everything that you do," Thielen said. "We were able to develop that last year, but it's still a new year now, so I have to develop that again this year.
"It's not any easy thing to do because if you're not on the same page, bad things can happen really quickly," he added. "That's why we're out here – that's what OTAs are for, to build that trust, build that chemistry and really just get fluid for the season."