There may not be a better success story on the Vikings than Adam Thielen, the undrafted rookie free agent from Division II Minnesota State-Mankato who is now third on the team in receptions (13) and receiving yards (145).
Vikings receiving coach George Stewart, who has worked with some of the best receivers in NFL history such as Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice, talked about the unique situation that brought Thielen to the Vikings and what has set him apart.
“Adam Thielen is a very, very good football player for us,” Stewart said. “He has been a very good football player all of his life. He’s just one of those guys that slipped through the cracks, I think. If you had to go back, I think the University of Minnesota, the University of Iowa, maybe North Dakota State, may have had a chance to recruit this young man because he is a football player. He has developed into a great player for us, and he is making a lot of plays.”
As a rookie, Thielen caught eight passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. Last year he had 12 receptions for 144 yards and had four carries for 89 yards. This year, in just four games, he has set career highs in receptions and receiving yards. His two receptions for 21 yards against the Giants were both season lows, but he still had a big 18-yard gain.
Stewart said that the credit in finding Thielen starts with the team’s scouting department.
“Our scouting department, Rick Spielman and his guys, did a great job of all the groundwork on Adam Thielen,” Stewart said. “Just to bring him to camp and give him an opportunity to compete for a job, that’s all Rick Spielman and his staff. They did a great job evaluating this young man, bringing him to us.
“Of course Rick has done a great job with all the players I have had a chance to coach — Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Cordarrelle Patterson. All of the guys he has drafted for my particular position have done a great job giving me help.”
Does he think Thielen can continue to improve?
“That’s up to Adam,” he said. “Every year he has been able to improve, and hopefully he will be able to improve. He’s a good football player for us.”
Meanwhile Stewart also raved about star receiver Stefon Diggs, who remains fifth in the league in receiving yards with 372 and sixth in receptions with 25.
“He’s a very unique player,” Stewart said. “He’s extremely competitive. He’s a young man that has great speed and quickness. Athletic ability, he’s very determined, and he wants to be a good player.”
Stewart was asked if Diggs reminds him of any of his former great wideouts.
“I’ve had a lot of good ones, it’s way too early,” he said. “It’s only his second year in the league, as you know. Let’s give him a little bit more time to compete, but he is on his path to being a pretty good player.”
What does Stewart see in Diggs that has set him apart after being just a fourth-round draft pick two years ago?
“His competitive fire,” he said. “He has great competitive fire. He has great instincts. His ability to make plays in traffic. He is very smart. He’s a good football player. All of those things combined give him a chance to be successful.”
And lastly Stewart talked about his early impressions of first-round pick Laquon Treadwell, and used a comparison with Diggs to show how he doesn’t see anything about Treadwell’s early play as a disappointment.
“It’s not that he’s a disappointment, it’s just that he’s a rookie,” Stewart said. “You look at Stefon Diggs a year ago and it took him three ballgames to even have a chance to go play. With Lequon you have to understand there are other players on our football team, and he’s a young rookie that’s earning his stripes and he’s going to be fine as we go forward.”
King: Bradford MVP
When asked to pick his NFL MVP through a quarter of the season, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King chose Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford.
King wrote: “Normally I wouldn’t name a player who missed a quarter of his team’s games the MVP. But I will make an exception for Sam Bradford. Bradford sat out the opener and started the next three Minnesota games.
“In those three games, learning a new offense on the fly, Bradford has beaten quarterbacks who have played in four of the past nine Super Bowls, and in each game outplayed Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Eli Manning. Bradford has no turnovers. He has the best completion and passer rating, both by a mile, in his career.”
• The word around Target Field is that Twins pitching coach Neil Allen, hitting coach Tom Brunansky, assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez and first base coach Butch Davis won’t return to work for Paul Molitor next season. Bench coach Joe Vavra, bullpen coach Eddie Guardado and third base coach Gene Glynn have a good chance of returning.
• Logan Gerken, a Gophers outfielder from 2000-2003, was the architect who designed the baseball part of U.S. Bank Stadium. And after having his players experiment with it, Gophers baseball coach John Anderson couldn’t compliment Gerken’s job enough, saying there were no problems on fly balls or anything else. “It’s so good that it will be a great recruiting tool,” said Anderson. “Players will want to play there.”
• Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller was named the NFL special teams player of the week for his play against Tennessee. Fuller returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown and led the team with seven receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. He became the first Texan and fourth rookie in the last 15 years to score a receiving and punt return touchdown in the same game. … Fuller is also only the second rookie in NFL history to have gained 300 yards from the line of scrimmage and scored a punt return touchdown in his first four games. The other was Hall of Famer and former Viking Hugh McElhenny.
• Former Gopher and current Jets wide receiver Eric Decker has a partial tear in his rotator cuff, and it sounds as if he will miss quite a bit of time but avoid surgery. Meanwhile Briean Boddy-Calhoun, the former Gophers safety, recorded a sack in the Browns’ 31-20 loss to Washington last week, and in the game before that, a loss at Miami, Boddy-Calhoun had four tackles and an interception return for a touchdown.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com