Written By Sam Ekstrom (ZoneCoverage.com)
Photo Credit: Kyle Hansen
While the major story leading up to the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 15 tilt with the Cincinnati Bengals might be the history of head coach Mike Zimmer coordinating the Bengals’ defense from 2008-13, there is some more recent history that might carry some weight in Minnesota’s wide receivers room.
Before the 2016 preseason opener, the Vikings and Bengals held joint practices in Cincinnati. Vikings receiver Adam Thielen — who at that point in his career had just 20 total receptions — was set to match up against Bengals cornerbacks Adam “Pacman” Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick in 1-on-1 drills, but the veteran defensive backs refused, instead sending the backups in to face Thielen while they waited for a different matchup.
“We want to go against some dawgs. This team has no dawgs,” they quipped, according to the Star Tribune.
“It’s disrespectful,” Thielen said at the time. “You feel disrespected, but at the same time, it is what it is. I really don’t care.”
Shortly after getting jilted in individual drills, Thielen’s helmet got ripped off during 11-on-11 scrimmaging, and a shoving match ensued.
Tensions boiled over briefly in Bengals-Vikings practice after helmet comes off. Adam Jones/Adam Thielen involved pic.twitter.com/D2sFZI5ovR
— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) August 10, 2016
This isn’t something Thielen has forgotten. He brought it up to journalist Tyler Dunne in a recent profile published on Bleacher Report.
The one thing that might diffuse the tension is injury. Jones has already been placed on injured reserve with a groin injury, and Kirkpatrick has been held out of Bengals practice with a concussion, putting his status in jeopardy for Sunday’s game.
Thielen wasn’t holding any grudges when asked about it on Thursday.
“That was a long time ago,” said Thielen. “I don’t think they meant anything by it. Obviously you want to play their best corners, so you’d love for those guys to play.”
The likely Pro Bowler has 89 or more receiving yards in eight of 13 games this season and four 100-yard efforts. With three games remaining, he is on pace for 1,429 yards, which would be the third-highest total in team history behind Randy Moss’s seasons in 2003 (1,632) and 2000 (1,437).
According to Pro Football Focus, Thielen is eighth in quarterback rating when targeted, and he has the fourth-highest yards per route run in the league behind Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Keenan Allen.
Even though Thielen lacked these accolades as he lined up — or rather, didn’t line up — against Jones and Kirkpatrick 16 months ago, his teammate, Stefon Diggs, still remembers the diss.
“Even back then it was a surprise,” Diggs said. “Guys saying, ‘I’m not covering that guy,’ not knowing that that guy’s really talented.”
Zimmer said the Bengals weren’t the only team to underestimate Thielen during his breakout 2016 campaign.
“They see him on tape, they don’t really know who he is, so they don’t make a lot of special things for him. I think everybody prepares for each guy and they study each guy, but maybe they don’t know the subtleties he runs his routes with.”
The Vikings got two players back to practice on Thursday but still have four holdouts.
Xavier Rhodes (hip) and Emmanuel Lamur (foot) had helmets on during the open portion of practice and were limited participants.
Riley Reiff (ankle), Kyle Rudolph (ankle), Mackensie Alexander (ribs) and Blake Bell (shoulder) did not participate. If Rudolph and Bell both miss Sunday’s game, it seems likely that practice squad tight end Kyle Carter would get called up to the active roster. Minnesota’s other tight end, David Morgan, was a full participant (concussion).
Here is the rest of the Vikings injury report.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 14, 2017