Adam Thielen: Probably Wouldn't Be in NFL If Hiatus Was During Rookie Season

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2020

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 11: Adam Thielen #19 of the Minnesota Vikings runs with the ball after a catch in the second quarter of the NFC Divisional Round Playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 11, 2020 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Adam Thielen joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent and eventually became a two-time Pro Bowler, but others could struggle to have a similar path in 2020 because of the coronavirus.

The league has modified the offseason schedule because of nationwide restrictions for the ongoing pandemic, featuring no organized team activities and only virtual programs through at least May 29. Despite a successful six-year career to this point, Thielen thinks this would've hurt his chances to initially make the team.

"Honestly, I probably wouldn't be in the NFL if this would've happened my rookie year," he said Tuesday, per Jeff Wald of Fox 9. "It's kind of crazy to think about those things."

Thielen played his college ball at Division II Minnesota State before getting a tryout with the Vikings, eventually impressing at the rookie minicamp.

"There was no question once we came out of that rookie minicamp that we had to sign this guy," general manager Rick Spielman said of Thielen, per Courtney Cronin of ESPN. 

The wideout eventually earned a trip to training camp and became a practice squad player during the 2013 season. In 2014, he played in all 16 games and by 2016 he was a go-to option in the passing attack.

In 2017 and '18, Thielen became one of the most productive receivers in the NFL with a combined 204 catches for 2,649 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

Even with his success in the NFL, none of it likely would have happened without getting those chances in the first offseason out of college.

Marginal prospects haven't gotten that opportunity this year.

With pro days and predraft workouts canceled, off-the-radar players had few chances to impress scouts. The cancellation of rookie minicamps then ruined the chance for undrafted players to showcase their skills and work ethic to prospective coaches.

Thielen's story was already rare, but the impacts of COVID-19 would have made it nearly impossible in 2020.