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Adam Thielen on verge of breaking Vikings' 1,000-yard receiving drought

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) looks on following the game against the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Nov. 19, 2017. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Sidney Rice in 2009, the longest drought in the NFL. That's about to change.

Adam Thielen could do it Thursday, Nov. 23, in a nationally televised, Thanksgiving game at Detroit's Ford Field. He has 916 receiving yards in 10 games of the season, second best in the NFL.

"I will have just one word for him when he does: 'Welcome,'" said Ahmad Rashad, a member of Minnesota's 1,000-yard club.

On 28 occasions, Vikings receivers have caught passes for at least 1,000 yards. Five did it more than once: Cris Carter (eight), Randy Moss (six), Jake Reed (four), Anthony Carter (three) and Rashad (two).

Between 1979-2004, the Vikings had eight players reach the mark a total of 26 times, but it was five more years before Rice got there with 1,312 yards in 2009 — and nobody else since.

"The Vikings have had a great legacy as far as wide receivers," said Cris Carter, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Famer whose best years were in Minnesota from 1990-2001. "It's the longest streak in the NFL, and you wouldn't think the Vikings would have it. There's a number of reasons for that, and it's mostly because guys haven't reached their potential."

In addition, running back Adrian Peterson was the focal point of the offense for most of the 10 seasons between 2007-16. He was not re-signed after missing most of last season because of a knee injury.

"Adrian was here for a long time, and it's kind of hard to get a 1,000-yard receiver with Adrian because he needs his touches," receiver Jarius Wright said. "But now I think we've turned over a new leaf. That would be super cool (for Thielen) to be the first guy with 1,000 yards in eight years. I can't say enough good things about what he's accomplished."

Wright has a lot more to say about the milestone than Thielen.

"I'm not even thinking about it," said Thielen, who has 62 catches on the season. "Honestly, I've got way too much to think about for this week and I'm just trying to play my best football and help this team win games ... So, I can't even think about yards."

An undrafted free agent in 2013 out of Minnesota State Mankato, Thielen, 27, looked ready to break the drought in last year's season finale against Chicago at U.S. Bank Stadium. He entered the game with 960 receiving yards but was targeted just one once, catching one pass for seven yards in a game that had no playoff implications.

Teammate Stefon Diggs had 903 receiving yards last season and likely would have reached 1,000 had he not missed three games because of injury. Diggs has 35 catches for 532 yards in eight games this season, but Thielen, a Detroit Lakes, Minn., native, has emerged as Minnesota's top target.

"It's a great story, coming from Mankato State," Cris Carter said. "It's nice to see local kids that really have a chance to have their dream come true. ...He's played his best football. He's been able to be injury free, and he's also now coming into the prime of his career. He's definitely one of the (NFL's) best receivers."

Thielen is fifth in the NFL in catches and second in receiving yards, trailing only Pittsburgh star Antonio Brown's 1,026. He's on pace to finish the season with nearly 100 receptions and nearly 1,500 yards.

"He is a wonderful receiver who runs great routes," said Rashad, who played for Minnesota from 1976-82. "He has great hands. He has a tendency to make big plays. I like the way he runs his routes offensively, not defensively. He controls the pace, and that's what great receivers do."

Rashad compared Thielen to a hall of famer from his own era.

"He got a little Steve Largent in him," Rashad said. "Largent ran great routes and had great hands. (Thielen's) a pleasure to watch."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.