Could Thielen return for Vikings Sunday? 'I'm just taking it 1 day at a time'

Adam Thielen #19 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter of the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Minneapolis. ((Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images))

Adam Thielen sounded cautiously optimistic about his playing status for Sunday after practicing for the second straight day on Thursday, but insists he’s taking things day-to-day.

Thielen has missed the last five games while continuing recovery from a hamstring injury suffered in the Vikings’ 42-30 Week7 win at Detroit. He injured the hamstring on his only catch of the game, a 25-yard touchdown. After missing Thursday Night Football against the Washington Redskins, Thielen tried to come back in Week 9 at Kansas City.

He saw action in two offensive series and was targeted once before spending the rest of the game on the sidelines. Thielen returned to practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday and Thursday, and did every wide receiver drill in the portion of practice open to the media.

“Honestly right now I’m just taking it one day at a time. Just focusing on the day, today was a win for me and getting back out there,” Thielen said. “Just focusing on the day, and tomorrow same thing. Focus on that day, see how it goes and go from there.”

Mike Zimmer said last week, before Thielen was declared inactive against the Lions, that “he’s getting really close.”

Like Thielen, Zimmer is taking his status day-to-day this week.

“Well we just have to see how the rest of the week goes,” Zimmer said Thursday.

The fact that Thielen practiced on consecutive days without issue and spoke with local reporters on Thursday are signs that he’ll get back on the field on Sunday against the Chargers in L.A.

“We’ll let coach Zim make a decision on that, but obviously everybody knows the caliber of player that Adam is. On top of that, his teammates love the kid because he just works like crazy,” Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said. “It’s fun to see him back out here and working and if he is up on Sunday, he’s another option for us.”

Before the injury, Thielen had made 27 catches for 391 yards and six touchdowns. In the six games he’s been out, the Vikings have gone 4-2 and put up at least 320 total yards in every game. They’ve put up more than 350 yards in five of the six games, and scored at least 20 points in five straight games.

Dalvin Cook has seen his role increase in Thielen’s absence. He’s already got more than 1,100 rushing yards on the season and is second for the Vikings in receiving with 50 catches for 503 yards. He’s got 1,611 total yards on the season and 13 rushing touchdowns.

Despite all the success, he wants his receiver back.

“You’re just seeing guys step up with Adam down, but I’m hoping to have him back. We want him back,” Cook said.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph has also seen his role expand with Thielen hurt. He’s third on the team with 35 catches through 13 games, and is tied for the team lead with Thielen at six touchdowns. Five of those six touchdowns, and a nifty two-point conversion, have come in the last five games.

“Offensively we’ve been playing some good football. When you can add a guy with Adam’s skill set and his ability, it’s only going to make us better,” Rudolph said.

It’s been a trying month for Thielen, who has never suffered a serious injury in his NFL career. He’s had multiple MRIs on the hamstring, had his patience tested and had to learn a lot about himself through the recovery process. He admitted himself he’s not a patient person, and wants to do whatever he can to get back on the field.

That said, he wants to avoid another setback, like the one he had at Kansas City or in a late November practice. He said it comes down to being smart with the process.

“Obviously I wasn’t ready to play. Just wasn’t ready to go, I couldn’t do my job the way that I needed to it to be successful or to even help this team. If I can’t go 100 percent, if I can’t do my job, I can’t play. That’s what happened,” Thielen said.

His only focus is getting back on the field. Thielen wouldn’t offer any guarantees, but he remains cautiously optimistic.

“At the end of the day I’m just focused on getting back out there. It’s tough not being out there with my teammates, but I’ve been so focused on just trying to do whatever it takes to get back out there. I feel like we’re in a good spot,” Thielen said.