Adam Thielen apologized for sounding like a broken record, which is funny, because he is becoming the embodiment of a broken record.
Sunday afternoon, he became the first receiver in the Super Bowl era to start a season with six straight 100-yard games, moving him within one of the record, set by Charley Hennigan in 1961.
Thielen is making history while writing one of the greatest Minnesota sports stories of all time, prompting a new question: To whom does he compare historically?
He doesn’t leap like Randy Moss. He doesn’t beat defenders with size like Cris Carter or Terrell Owens. He doesn’t sprint past defenders like Isaac Bruce.
Strangely or factually, Thielen appears to compare most to Jerry Rice, the NFL’s all-time leading receiver and perhaps the greatest football player ever.
Thielen’s career achievements are not and probably never will be comparable to Rice’s, but he’s doing a fair impression this season.
Both are listed at 6-2, 200 pounds. Neither is known for exceptional leaping ability or straight-line speed, although neither area is a weakness on the field.
Both run precise and deceptive routes, work the sideline as well as the middle of the field, and appear faster than their stopwatch time when pursued by defenders.
Sunday, Thielen caught 11 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings’ 27-17 victory over Arizona. He holds the NFL record for most receptions in the first six games of a season (and the Vikings record for any six consecutive games) with 58.
“Man, I think Adam is just special,’’ running back Latavius Murray said. “I think what he’s doing has never been done, and it’s cool just to be a part of it.
“He makes every play. One day, maybe we’ll be saying that someone else reminds us of Thielen.’’
Thielen has passed a series of tests in the NFL. He had to get noticed, at an open tryout. He had to make the team by excelling on special teams. He had to break into the lineup, win the trust of his quarterbacks and produce enough to secure a long-term contract.
Now he’s facing the ultimate test for an NFL receiver — producing as the focal point of opponents’ game plans.
“When it comes to running routes, that man is nice,’’ said safety George Iloka. “He has a crazy route package. All of his routes start out the same, but at the top of the route he has a lot of sauce. That’s why he’s always open against DBs. He’s a great player, a better teammate and a good man.’’
Iloka reprised Murray’s thought, saying, “In years to come people will compare other players to him. Like, ‘Man, that guy is like Thielen.’ ”
Thielen’s 58 catches have been good for 712 yards and four touchdowns. He’s on pace to catch 155 passes for 1,899 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Vikings’ team records in those categories: 122, 1,632 and 17. Rice’s single-season bests in those categories: 122, 1,848 and 22.
“I know he doesn’t think there’s a ball he can’t catch, for sure,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “That’s how he is in practice every day. He laid out in practice the other day and goes, ‘Why did I do that?’
“He comes over and talks to me during games about stuff that’s going on and it’s always about, ‘These guys can’t guard me.’ ”
Thielen celebrated his touchdown by doing what he called the “Dead Arm Dance.’’ Then he offered his typical, humble postgame interview, and that’s when he apologized for sounding like “a broken record.’’
In the other locker room, another great Minnesota-born receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, offered congratulations. “I’m really happy for Adam,’’ Fitzgerald said. “Every single week he continues to raise his level of play. He makes tough plays and consistent plays and does a great job in the running game, and he’s been a sparkplug for his team all season. You saw it again today.’’
The broken record keeps breaking records.