Thielen looking to apply lessons learned

Adam Thielen was the only 16-game member of the Vikings practice squad last year after signing as an undrafted rookie. This year, he’s hoping to apply what he learned and earning a spot on the 53-man roster, which looks like a very real possibility.

Adam Thielen is hoping the “little things” he learned last year can make a big difference over the next three weeks as his college home becomes his proving ground for the NFL once again.

Last year, Thielen took an undrafted rookie invitation from the Vikings and turned it into a learning season on the practice squad. He was the only player on the team to spend the entire season on the practice as the Vikings moved on from low-round draft picks like Everette Dawkins and Travis Bond while sticking with Thielen.

This year, Thielen – the Minnesota State, Mankato standout – is looking like a legitimate candidate to win one of the receiver spots on the active roster.

“It’s a lot different having that year under my belt. It gave me a lot of confidence,” Thielen said toward the end of the Vikings’ offseason practices. “Going against the starters every day in practice last year gave me a lot of confidence. I’m out here to get a spot and still learn from these veterans and just keep going to work every day and get better.”

From going against veterans on defense to learning from the veterans on offense, Thielen has had a lot to absorb in the last year while making his way from the small-college ranks to NFL prospect to NFL practice player.

He credited veterans like Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson for helping him in his initial season with the Vikings.

“Just the little things in the route-running, just the confidence those guys have, the work ethic that they have coming in every day. Those are the major (takeaways from his rookie season), but the little things in the routes that get you open,” Thielen said.

Of course, some of what he learned last year won’t apply in 2014. With a new offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, comes a new system to learn. Even so, there are things from last year that will apply this year and beyond, he said.

“It’s a totally different offense, but the concepts, that’s the big thing. Even though it’s different lingo and stuff like that, it’s the same type of concepts. Even though it’s a different offense, I can still apply some of that stuff to this offense,” he said.

Thielen said Turner wants things a different way than former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, who was fired after Mike Zimmer was hired as the new head coach.

“It’s just finding out the little things of what he likes and how he wants us to run the offense,” Thielen said. “Just like the yardage of routes, the precision of the routes, maybe some of the breaks, the different types of breaks. But it’s all football, but just kind of learning what he likes. Everybody has their own thing of what they like to see and that’s the challenge, but it’s going better every day.”

Physically, Thielen said he has put on weight, despite being listed on their final minicamp roster the same as he was on the season-ending roster last year: 6-foot-2, 195 pounds.

Mentally, however, is where his greatest progress has come, “maturing” in his knowledge of the game at the NFL level. With all those factors pointing up, Thielen is hoping 2014 is the start of something bigger for his career.

“I think the sky is the limit. I’m going out there every day to get a blade of grass and get better,” he said. “We’ll see how it all plays out. I have high expectations and we’ll see what happens. It’s not my decision to be made, it’s the man upstairs. We’ll see what happens.”

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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