Though he has proceeded with a new appreciation for the thorny nature of hamstring injuries since he first injured his right leg on Oct. 20, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen sounded optimistic Friday that he will be on the field Monday night at Seattle.
Thielen, who hasn’t played since aggravating the injury Nov. 3 at Kansas City, conceded he likely wouldn’t play if his hamstring isn’t 100%. But he said things have gone “according to plan” this week, adding he probably won’t need to wait until a pregame workout to determine whether he can play.
“We stuck to the plan; this has kind of been the plan the whole time, since I hurt it last time,” Thielen said. “We’re going to continue to see what happens.”
Initial exams showed Thielen’s hamstring pull wasn’t serious after he was injured Oct. 20, and after he missed the Vikings’ Oct. 24 game against Washington, the wide receiver hoped he could come back for the game at Kansas City. His hamstring wasn’t fully healed at that point, though, and he played just seven snaps vs. the Chiefs before the injury flared up again. That experience seemed to give Thielen some hard-won wisdom about how to handle hamstring injuries down the road.
“I know that if you’re not 100 percent, you’re probably going to come out five plays into the game anyway,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest difference from a hamstring to different injuries. You can play through pain with other injuries. But as I found out quickly with a hamstring, if you’re feeling any pain, eventually, it’s not going to work.”
Thielen was limited in practice Friday, after being listed as limited in the Vikings’ first injury report of the week Thursday (the team did not practice on Thanksgiving, so Thursday’s injury report was an estimation). Defensive linemen Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen were limited, as were safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris.
Running back Dalvin Cook (chest) returned to full participation after being listed as limited Thursday. Guard Josh Kline was a full participant after returning from the concussion protocol. Linebacker Ben Gedeon (concussion) remained out.
For much of the season — but especially since Thielen’s injury — the Vikings have relied on using multiple tight ends as much as almost any team in the league, in part to create favorable matchups against linebackers in the passing game when heavier offensive personnel keeps opponents from putting an extra defensive back in the game.
Monday, though, they will face a Seahawks team that has long built its defense around a base defense that keeps three linebackers on the field and stations a safety near the line of scrimmage to stop the run, while two corners and a safety play a three-deep zone. The personnel groups the Vikings often use to create mismatches will instead be used to counter Seattle’s strength.
“They’ll play their zones based on whoever’s in there, so it doesn’t really change it too much,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “You just may not get the matchups you always want.”
The Vikings ran for 172 yards in their season-opening victory over the Falcons, who run a similar scheme under coach (and former Seahawks defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn. On Monday, they will likely stick to what’s worked, in a strength-vs.-strength matchup at Seattle.
“Some of that we still anticipate doing; that’s kind of how we’ve built our identity running the football,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “We talked about it in May, June, August, that we’re going to put big people out there and try to run the football, and they want to stay big, as well. It’ll be something we do well against something they do well, in prime time in December, so you can’t ask for much more than that.”