Ex-Vikings Star Adam Thielen Fires Back at Critics Who Think He’s Lost a Step

Adam Thielen

Getty Former Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen

Longtime Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen moved on to a new team for the first time in his 11-year career, landing with the Carolina Panthers this offseason.

However, the same critique has followed the 33-year-old receiver with his age.

Thielen addressed the slight in a recent interview with The Athletic on May 9, striking down the notion that he’s lost a step.

“It is weird for me because it happened so fast. I feel like I just came into the league and I was just trying to make it for one day. And now all of a sudden, boom, people are saying you’re too old and too slow. And I’m like, wait a second, I just got here. How am I too old and too slow? At the end of the day, people don’t actually watch the tape. They just look at stats and look at what people are saying about someone, and they don’t actually look and see what you’re doing,” Thielen said.

Thielen added that the critique that has followed him as he’s officially over the hill in football years has helped motivate him in the offseason.

“Sometimes it can be frustrating as a player. But at the same time, it gives you a little chip on your shoulder,” Thielen said. “When I’m training in the offseason, that’s in the back of my head. I better work my butt off to show I can still run and be explosive and still look like I’m young, even though to most people — especially in this league — I’m old.”

Playing Through Injury in 2022, Adam Thielen Didn’t See Significant Drop Off in Separation

The eye test suggested that Thielen struggled to separate from receivers, leading to a lackluster year for the two-time Pro Bowler. He managed to catch 73 passes for 7666 yards and six touchdowns despite playing through an ankle injury for much of the season.

However, NFL Next Gen Stats suggest Thielen didn’t lose a step in separation. In 2022, Thielen created 2.7 yards of separation per route run, which is on par with most of his career.

What may have been more limiting is Thielen’s explosiveness to separate on deep routes. According to Pro Football Focus, Thielen’s 1.08 yards per route run was his lowest since 2015 as the Vikings tended to use him primarily on short- to -intermediate routes.

Adam Thielen Can Make History at the Age of 33 Next Season

After word of Thielen’s grievances with his role in the Vikings offense was spread, he’ll look for a more productive role with the Panthers.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only 30 players age 33 or older have posted 70 catches or more in a season. Twenty-eight players have posted a 1,000-yard season and only seven players have scored 10 or more touchdowns in a season.

All those figures could be in play for Thielen who could assume a prominent role in the Panthers offense with No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young.

“I want to be able to prove that I can still run and be explosive. But the greats at this position not only use speed to win, they win route running and top-of-the-route (technique) and change of direction and angles, and how you come out of your breaks,” Thielen said. “There’s definitely a time where things are gonna slow down a little bit and you have to rely even more on that stuff. But I don’t think I’m at that point yet. Actually I know that I’m not. But I have to go out there and prove that.”

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