As He Deals with "Tricky" Hamstring Injury, Adam Thielen Could Miss a Couple More Weeks
Adam Thielen felt good on Sunday morning. He warmed up, got ready to go, and was excited to be back after missing nearly two full games with a hamstring injury.
Not even four minutes into the game against the Chiefs, he was back on the sideline. Now, he may have to stay there for a while.
Thielen re-aggravated the injury in Kansas City, and was a non-participant in Wednesday's practice, which signals that he's unlikely to play this weekend in Dallas. (Update: After not practicing all week, Thielen has been ruled out this week.) There's growing speculation that the Vikings may keep him out in Week 11 against the Broncos as well, which would give him – factoring in the Vikings' Week 12 bye – nearly a month to get fully healthy.
Hamstring injuries aren't easy to come back from quickly. That's something Dalvin Cook knows all too well, after he missed several games with one last season.
"It’s a tricky thing," Cook said. "We use our quick twitch muscles so much to where like your hamstrings and your muscles, they got to be firing. Adam’s a quick twitch guy. He snaps his routes and stuff like that so the hamstrings got to be firing. Your body can feel good when you go out there and then all of a sudden it comes out of nowhere."
Cook injured his hamstring in Week 2 of 2018, missed the next game, then returned in Week 4. He suffered a setback in that game and was forced to miss the next four games before returning for good in Week 9. Even after returning, it took Cook a while to get fully healthy, and he was held under 15 touches in each of the next three games.
His advice for Thielen? Don't come back until you're completely healthy.
“Just don’t let that one game turn into two, three, four," Cook said. "I kinda dealt with that. Just take your time and reevaluate it. Just do what’s best for you and don’t come back until you're 100 percent. We need that guy on the field. He’s valuable to our team, but he’s valuable to our team when he’s 100 percent. We don’t need him out there at 50, 70, we need him 100 percent, and we want that guy to get well.”
On Wednesday, Mike Zimmer bristled at the notion that Thielen was rushed back too soon. It's hard to blame the ultra-competitive Thielen and the Vikings' medical staff for clearing him in Kansas City if he felt good to go.
"The MRI...and what the player says [determines our evaluation]," Zimmer said. "[Athletic trainer] Eric Sugarman does an outstanding job. It’s just one of those things that he got in a game and grabbed a little bit. I wouldn’t say it’s a long-term deal."
In order to prevent it from being a long-term deal, it may now make sense for Thielen not to attempt another quick return.
At this point, Thielen playing in Dallas this Sunday is a long shot. By keeping him out for the following game – at home against the 3-6 Broncos – as well, the Vikings could try to get Thielen back at 100 percent for a huge Monday Night Football game in Seattle on December 2nd.
Until Thielen returns, they'll continue to lean on other players in the passing game, in addition to Stefon Diggs.
“It’s the next guy up mentality," Cook said. "You got Olabisi, [Laquon] Treadwell that stepped up last week. You got some guys that can play some positions and step in and make some big plays. Those guys gotta keep stepping up and making plays, because that’s the big absence."
For Diggs, it's been a slight adjustment without his good friend and fellow star out there. He had big games against the Lions and Redskins as the primary receiver, but was held to one catch for four yards in Kansas City.
"You can definitely see a difference as far as what they like to do and what they try to take away," Diggs said on defense's approaches without Thielen. "I get a lot more clouds to my side, but just kind of rolling with the punches as far as what I can do. If I can put my other guys in a position to get open or make plays then I'll do so. When my opportunities do come, when they crawl up and we want to take a chance, you've got to take full advantage."