Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wants a tough football team. It is something that he has talked about since he first arrived at Winter Park. You can start to see signs of that trickling down through all the players on the team. Even if they get hurt, they don’t want to leave the game.
One player that has shown that multiple times over the course of the season is wide receiver Adam Thielen and he did it once again last Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
On the opening drive of the game, Thielen took a handoff and gained 14 yards but injured his shoulder when Charles Woodson brought him to the ground. Instead of leaving the game he had the training staff put a wrap around the shoulder and he entered back in.
“Adam is a tough guy,” Zimmer said. “He’s had a couple nicks throughout this season. I ask him how whatever it is and he says, ‘good.’ And I say, ‘Well, that’s the right answer.’ He’s a guy that’s not going to miss. He’s going to keep fighting, going to keep playing. He’s dependable.”
That tough spirit showed up later in the game when the Raiders were punting the ball and Thielen nearly blocked it. Even though he had an injured shoulder, he was able to get through the offensive line and completely lay out in an effort to block the punt.
He came inches away from doing so, and even though he didn’t get the block the effort he put into the play resonates with the coaching staff. But if you ask his special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, he still thinks Thielen should have gotten the block.
“I don’t know how he missed it,” Priefer said. “If you look at the TV copy, it was unbelievable. It was a great effort by him. We call it a snapper pick and Scott Crichton did a great job, as well, to open up the hole for him, but I thought he had a block. It was close.”
That near block was not the only gutsy effort Thielen displayed during the game, though. On Cordarrelle Patterson’s kickoff return for a touchdown, Thielen threw a critical block that helped spring him.
Injury or not, Thielen wants to be able to be out on the field and do everything he can to help them win. Injuries will heal, but knowing you did not give 100 percent out on the field won’t.
“I want to be out there playing with the team, so whatever it takes to do that I’m going to do,” he said.
Thielen is the definition of a blue-collar talent in the NFL. He got passed on by Division I schools coming out of high school so he played at Division II Minnesota State, Mankato. Then coming out of college he went undrafted and spent a year on the Vikings practice squad.
Eventually he made the active roster but he still puts in the time and effort every day at practice as if he is continuing to prove himself every day. He is often one of the last players to leave the field after practice, and that no doubt registers with the coaches.