EAGAN, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen acknowledged Friday, Nov. 29, he tried returning too soon from a right hamstring injury this month and vowed not to make the same mistake again.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection was hurt Oct. 20 at Detroit and missed an Oct. 24 game against Washington before leaving a Nov. 3 loss at Kansas City after only seven plays. Thielen has missed the past two games but has practiced twice this week and hopes to return Monday night at Seattle.
But Thielen said he won’t take the field if he’s not 100 percent.
“I know that if you’re not 100 percent, you’re just going to come out five plays into the game anyway,” he said. “So, that’s probably the biggest difference with hamstrings from a different injury. 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 just not going to work.”
Thielen returned to practice Tuesday following a bye week but sat out Wednesday’s workout. The Vikings (8-3) took Thanksgiving off and Thielen was back at practice on a limited basis Friday.
Head coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t tip his hand on whether he thinks Thielen will play against the Seahawks (9-2) in an important game for playoff seeding.
“I appreciate you asking the question,” the coach said, “but I’m not going to answer who’s playing in the game.”
Thielen said everything this week has gone “according to plan” according to what medical staff has set up for him.
“Hopefully, I’ll have another good day (Saturday) and see how it goes,” said Thielen, who spoke to the media Friday for the first time since before the week before the Kansas City game.
Thielen does not anticipate a decision based on how he looks in pregame warmups.
“It’s more of sticking to this plan and seeing how it goes (Saturday) and then kind of making the decision after that,” he said.
Before the Vikings’ 26-23 loss at Arrowhead Stadium, Zimmer said Thielen would be evaluated in warmups. He started but didn’t make it out of the first quarter.
“It obviously didn’t feel good, and I couldn’t do my job to a high enough level, and obviously that’s why I’ve been where I’ve been the last few weeks,” said Thielen, adding that he “obviously” returned too soon.
In Thielen’s absence, rookies Bisi Johnson and Irv Smith have been among those to step up. Johnson, who replaced Thielen at wide receiver, has 15 of his 24 catches in the past five games. Smith, a tight end, has 20 of his 27 receptions in the past five games.
“You can never have enough weapons, and I think that the experience that a lot of these young guys have gotten over the last four or five weeks with Adam being down will only help us,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “And then any time you get a multiple-time Pro Bowler and one of the best receivers in the game back, that doesn’t hurt either.”
“When he comes back, that just makes us even more dangerous, and I think teams should be worried about that,” he said.
Prior to sitting out against Washington, Thielen, 29, had played in all 87 possible games in his first six seasons. He said being a veteran has helped him deal with sitting out.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “Obviously, as a competitor, you want to play and you want to help your team win. But at the same time, I’m a little older, so I understand that’s just part of the deal. And for me to be upset and show my teammates that, there’s no point.”
Johnson said teammates tried to keep Thielen’s spirits up during his absence. Dramatic wins the past two weeks over Dallas and Denver have helped even more.
“Winning games, that’s very good,” Johnson said. “Especially without one of our top receivers.”