Back from an injury and playing under a new coach, Adam Thielen is ready to get back on the field for his 10th year with the Vikings.
"I feel fresh, I feel energetic, I think the culture that's been created here is just a breath of fresh air," the wide receiver said in an interview with Fox 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul. "It just makes it exciting to be here and work."
Thielen's 2021 season was hindered by an ankle injury that first popped up in a Week 13 game versus the Lions and then was aggravated three weeks later in his first game back, leading to season-ending surgery. He had been on track to possibly hit 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since 2018, but the injury left this goal unfulfilled.
Now healed up and on the field for last week's organized team activities, Thielen said he's been itching to get back after missing games down the stretch for Minnesota.
"[The ankle] is great, it feels good to be out here and feeling young again, and fresh, and not having to worry about my ankle," Thielen said. "To not be out there, it's tough. ... I'm not taking my reps out here for granted, because who knows when I'll be done and won't be able to play this game anymore."
The 31-year-old played at Minnesota State before joining his hometown team as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He gradually established himself as a consistent force on the offense, finishing every season with an average of over 10.0 yards per catch, and Thielen has hauled in double-digit touchdowns the last two seasons even despite the ankle injury.
Despite the relative consistency over the course of his career, Thielen said he has heard discussion about his production slowing down in the last couple years. But he also said he can usually ignore the outside noise, recognizing that it's something that can fuel him instead of causing doubt.
"Honestly, I'm just worried about my team, and trying to be the best football player I can be to help my team win," Thielen said. "I'm not really worried about what other people think about me, because if I would have worried about that, I never would have made it here."
Thielen will be running drills this offseason with a new head coach after the Vikings hired Kevin O'Connell in February. O'Connell most recently worked as an assistant coach for the 2021 Super Bowl-champion Los Angeles Rams. Thielen said the hiring has completely reinvigorated the Vikings as a team, creating a culture shift that can be felt around the locker room.
"When you hear about the news (O'Connell being named head coach), you kind of look back at the track record and you look back at what (the Rams) did, and you're excited, right?" Thielen said. "But then you get in here, you start learning the system and you start getting on the field -- really, when you get on the field and you start running through stuff, you're like man, this is fun. This is exciting.
"When I talk about a breath of fresh air and kind of rejuvenation, it's because when you get out here, it's like stuff makes sense and it's exciting."
And as he returns to his 10th year of OTAs amidst this renewed team focus on creating a winning culture, Thielen believes the Vikings are in a position to make a move upward in 2022 as long as they continue putting in the work.
"We have a great team, we have a great locker room, we have great coaches, we have great leadership," Thielen said. "So, we just got to make sure we keep working hard and keep gaining ground because there is a lot of learning. So there's a lot of extra work, a lot of details we got to focus on right now that will help us in the long run."