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Hard work paying off for Adam Thielen in second season with the Vikings

Detroit Lakes native Adam Thielen hauls in a pass from the Vikings’ first-round pick quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at Winter Park in Eden Prairie during the team’s rookie minicamp Friday. Brian Basham/Forum News Service

Detroit Lakes native Adam Thielen impressed the right people in the Minnesota Viking’s front office in 2013, which in turn earned him an NFL future’s contract after the season concluded.

Although the contract ensured more security in an unstable work atmosphere in which every NFL player endures, Thielen isn’t even close to being satisfied after surviving the Vikings’ practice for the entire 2013 season – which in itself is a rare feat.

“I felt good about that,” Thielen said of his year-long spot he had on the eight-man practice squad. “It was nice to have that consistency playing every day and practicing with the team. I felt I got better because of being around those leaders like Greg (Jennings).”

Thielen obviously made an impression on the Leslie Frazier coaching staff, especially wide receivers coach George Stewart and most importantly, general manager Rick Spielman.

It is widely known the practice squad is a volatile situation to be in the NFL, with moves being made weekly.

But Thielen survived each and every week with his strong work ethic and his knowledge of the playbook, as well as his precise route running.

Even after Frazier and the  majority of his coaching staff was let go, Thielen was signed to a future’s contract, even before new head coach Mike Zimmer was hired.

Thielen’s year in the NFL has taught him plenty of how to prepare for the rigors of staying on the team.

“In the NFL, you need to be precise and fast,” Thielen said. “You also have to be confident in yourself. I learned to have precision in my routes and learn how to read the different coverages.

“That helps slow the game down and the more reps you get, the easier it gets.”

Another aspect Thielen experienced being an NFL player is change and there was lots of turnover for the Vikings after a 5-10-1 record last season.

The offense changed dramatically with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave being let go, along with Frazier, and longtime offensive guru Norv Turner being hired.

Throughout the season, Musgrave’s playcalling was criticized as being simple and predictable.

But as another aspect Thielen has learned being a professional, he went out and did his job no matter the circumstances.

“As a player, you do what you’re told to the best of your ability,” Thielen said. “I learned a lot from (Musgrave) and appreciate what he did for me.”

When Zimmer was hired, Thielen introduced himself to his new head coach, as well to his new offensive coordinator in Turner.

“Both have high expectations for everyone and that will show this season,” Thielen said. “Norv’s offense is definitely one I’ve never been in and it’s exciting, because he’s been one of the top offensive minds for a long time.”

Thielen described Turner’s offense as a quick and fast one. His role, though, will not change since Thielen will be lining up in basically all the receiver positions throughout the offseason and into training camp.

“This is an offense in which you will be flying around in,” Thielen said. “I’ve been moving around in all the positions, as well, and that’s a good thing.”

The other offseason moves, or lack thereof, also helped Thielen’s chances to make the active roster.

The Vikings didn’t sign any veteran free agent wide receivers of note and didn’t draft any, in what was considered one of the deepest drafts for wide receivers in years.

Gone are Greg Childs and Joe Webb, who were two veterans ahead of Thielen last year.

As of last weekend’s rookie minicamp, there were eight receivers listed on the roster, with four positions basically locked up by Jennings, Cordarralle Patterson, Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson.

The fifth position looks to be up for grabs between last year’s holdover and practice squad players Rodney Smith and Thielen.

Veteran Lestar Jean was signed, while undrafted rookie free agent Kamar Jorden is also on the roster.

“I don’t pay much attention to that because I have to go out every single day and give it my all and keep getting better every day,” Thielen added.

Thielen also first-hand look of this year’s prize catch in rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, in which he worked out with during last weekend’s rookie minicamp.

“Teddy is a great kid, he’s a leader who comes to work every day,” Thielen said. “That’s what I’m impressed with, his work ethic. He does not get distracted with what’s going on around him and he’s here to work his butt off.

“There is no concern with his arm strength and he’s just going out there to get better.”

Another route Thielen can take to make the active roster is special teams and it’s a unit he is very familiar with after playing many positions.

“Special teams are a big focus of mine,” Thielen said. “They can trust me in a lot of different positions and that is important.”

It’s been a life of nothing but football during the last year for the football junkie Thielen.

But being satisfied with the last year will not be enough for the goal-driven Thielen, and thus far, the minds which matter for the Vikings have been taking note.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.