Adam Thielen caught a league-high 11 touchdowns in 10 games before spending the next 10 days in COVID-19 quarantine.
Surely, he lost a little bit of his mojo in practice this week, eh Mike Zimmer?
“No, I don’t think so,” the Vikings coach said of his No. 1 receiver, who made it through all three practices this week and will start against the 1-10 Jaguars on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“He looks skinnier to me, but he said his weight is the same. But other than that, he was good. I kept teasing him that he looked like he hadn’t found a weight room in a week.”
Actually, the guy who owns his own local gym also has one at his house that he used.
Thielen was the sixth Vikings player to be quarantined since Oct. 28. He was one of three to test positive for COVID-19 but sidestepped questions on Friday about his test result and symptoms.
Clearly, his symptoms were minor.
“Thankfully, I was able to work out,” Thielen said. “I have a little home gym that I made do with. And then I was able to run outside. It was nice enough weather where I could run and do hill sprints and things like that and stay in shape.
“It was definitely nice to kind of get some lifting and running and get the body rejuvenated.”
And how does he feel at the end of a normal week of practice? A normal week that followed a week Thielen described three times as “weird.”
“I feel great,” he said. “It was definitely nice to get back, obviously, into the building and then back to practice. I definitely needed a couple of those practices to get back into the swing of things. It was good to get back full-speed practicing and getting the preparation for Sunday.”
Thielen’s “weird” week included watching from his living room as his “brothers” beat Carolina 28-27 on a 75-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes. By now, all of Vikings Nation has seen Caitlin Thielen’s social media post of her jubilant husband screaming and leaping about in celebration as Panthers kicker Joey Slye missed wide left from 54 yards in the closing seconds.
It reminded Thielen of the passion he had growing up rooting for the Vikings. Only this win was way more important to him.
“It definitely has a little different meaning when it’s your brothers out there playing,” Thielen said. “I loved watching the team and grew up a fan. But when your brothers are out there … it means a little bit more to you. It was nerve-racking and just a weird experience. Just proud of my teammates for getting the job done.”
Last Sunday, Thielen said he FaceTimed teammates before and after the game. He joked that they “ignored” him after the game because they were “annoyed” with him.
This week, he will be back on the field trying to regain his league lead in touchdown catches. Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill sneaked past him last week and has 13 on the season.
Thielen still leads the league in red zone touchdowns. He has been targeted 17 times in the red zone, catching 14 balls and scoring 10 times.
Last week, the Vikings’ No. 1-ranked red zone offense increased its efficiency without Thielen. In 10 snaps inside the 20, the Vikings put up 45 yards, three touchdowns and 25 points.
Their touchdown percentage in the red zone is now a whopping 77.8%.
“In the red zone, you just know it’s going to be contested catches,” Thielen said. “The quarterback has to have trust in you to be at the right spot at the right time, and then to come down with the football. That’s what I’ve tried to do every day my entire career.”
He had three more days this week to build on that trust with Kirk Cousins. It certainly sounds like things went well.
So, Adam, it appears you didn’t lose any mojo at all during that 10-day quarantine.
“I hope so,” he said. “We’ll find out Sunday.”