Adam Thielen has been on the Minnesota Vikings’ COVID reserve list since returning a positive test last week, and thus, has not been allowed around the teammates.
That meant for a few hours on Sunday, as gut-wrenching as it was for him, Thielen was no different than the thousands of other fans across the state, watching helplessly from his couch as his beloved Vikings took on the Carolina Panthers.
There was nothing Thielen, an all-pro receiver, could do when Panthers rookie Jeremy Chinn shockingly scored defensive touchdowns on back-to-back fumble returns shortly after halftime to flip the game on its head. There was nothing Thielen could do when return man Chad Beebe lost a fumbled punt in the final minutes that seemed to seal the loss. There was nothing Thielen could do when the Vikings got the ball back with a chance to win the game on the final drive.
So the 31-year-old receiver from Detroit Lakes did the only thing he could do. He cheered. He lived and died with every play like he was a little boy again, decked out in a hoodie and gym shorts, and holding a football in his hands to complete the cliche.
Meanwhile, his wife Caitlin broadcast the palette of emotions on Instagram, initially catching her husband going berserk when Beebe caught the go-ahead touchdown, then losing his mind completely when Panthers kicker Joey Slye missed 54-yard field goal to end the game.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Thielen shouted repeatedly as the kick sailed wide of the goal posts. “Let’s go!”
It took about 30 seconds for the video to go viral. That meant some of Thielen’s teammates got a glimpse of the reaction as soon as they got back to the locker room. Such is life in the world of social media.
“I saw it with no sound,” safety Harrison Smith said with a laugh. “It looked like he was pretty juiced. I’m sure his heart was racing pretty good while he was watching.”
It was a long week for Thielen, being cooped up at home while his teammates prepared for Sunday’s game at TCO Performance Center in Eagan. He stayed involved as much as he could, participating in team meetings via Zoom, and offering insight to his fellow receivers from afar. Then, of course, he texted a bunch of his teammates after the win to congratulate them on a job well done.
“He was very excited,” rookie receiver Justin Jefferson said with a smile. “He was texting me, ‘Let’s go!’ Just definitely pumped up for us and excited that we came back and got the ‘W’ in that game.”
In a perfect world for the Vikings, that will be the last game Thielen has to watch from home. He’s likely to come off the COVID reserve at some point this week. Does that mean he will be ready for this Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars?
“I hope so,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We’ll go by the protocols. As soon as they tell us he can go, he can go.”