EAGAN, Minn. — For the past couple of months, when Adam Thielen has been out and about in the Twin Cities, there has been one thing foremost on the minds of Vikings fans.
“I get a lot of hamstring questions,” Thielen said.
The star wide receiver injured his right hamstring Oct. 20 at Detroit and has been on the field for part of just one quarter since then. He has missed four straight games and five of the past six.
But Thielen said Thursday he is more optimistic now than in past weeks about returning. He practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, and could be back for Sunday’s road game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“Right now, I’m just taking it one day at a time, just focusing on the day,” Thielen said. “(Thursday’s practice) was a win for me and getting back out there. … Everything has gone well so far and (I am) very happy with the progression. We’ll see how (Friday) goes.”
The two-time Pro Bowl selection acknowledged two weeks ago he returned too soon for the Nov. 3 game at Kansas City after sitting out just one game. He aggravated the injury in the first quarter against the Chiefs and hasn’t played since.
Thielen practiced on a limited basis Nov. 29 and 30 and was listed as questionable for a Dec. 2 game at Seattle. But he was downgraded to out the day before the game.
“I just wasn’t ready to go,” he said. “I couldn’t do my job at the way I needed to do it to be successful or to even help this team. So, if I can’t go 100 percent, I can’t do my job, I can’t play.”
Thielen, 29, didn’t practice last week and sat out last Sunday’s 20-7 home victory over the Lions. He returned to practice Wednesday.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph said Thielen “looked good” in Thursday’s workout, and is hopeful he can play against the Chargers.
“It’s awesome any time you get a Pro Bowl-caliber player back offensively,” Rudolph said. “We’ve been playing some good football, and if you can add a guy with Adam’s skill set and his ability, it’s only going to make us better.”
Including the 26-23 loss to the Chiefs, the Vikings have gone 4-2 since Thielen was initially hurt. During his absence, wide receiver Stefon Diggs has had some big games, but quarterback Kirk Cousins also has spread the ball around a lot more. He completed passes to 11 different receivers against the Lions.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski will have a plan against the Chargers for if Thielen plays and if he doesn’t.
“There’s certain things that a specific player like Adam does really well and you’re going to do it with Adam, and I could say the same with some of our tight ends and our running backs,” Stefanski said. “There are some things in mind as you put a plan together that you really have him in mind for. If he’s not up, you move on to the next guy.”
Coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2017-18, Thielen has 27 catches this season for 391 yards. Before his injury, he had played in all 87 games in his six-year pro career.
Thielen has been frustrated at times while sitting out. However, he said he has “learned a lot, just about myself” during the process.
“I’ve learned how to be patient and learned how to be smart and things like that in practice and progression and things like that, so, yeah, just trying to get better every day,” he said.