Thielen joins three other Vikings as Pro Bowlers
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Three familiar faces from the Vikings and a new guy are heading to the Pro Bowl.
Defensive end Everson Griffen and linebacker Anthony Barr were named Tuesday night to the game for the third consecutive season and cornerback Xavier Rhodes for the second straight year. Making his first appearance will be wide receiver Adam Thielen.
"It's obviously a tremendous accomplishment,'' Thielen told NFL Network. "I'm very excited, very proud, but we have a lot of work to do. We have two games left in the regular season and hopefully a big run in the playoffs.''
The Vikings (11-3) have the second-best record in the NFC, and many believed they would have more than four selections for the Jan. 28 game in Orlando, Fla.
The biggest surprise was the omission of safety Harrison Smith, who has played in the past two Pro Bowls and is ranked as the top player at his position by Pro Football Focus. Also not selected was nose tackle Linval Joseph, a notable run-stopper who played in last season's Pro Bowl.
Pro Bowlers were selected by a one-third vote each from fans, players and coaches. It was announced Saturday that Griffen and Rhodes had won the fan vote at their positions.
"Back to back to back!'' Griffen tweeted after the Pro Bowl announcement. "Appreciate the love!"
Griffen has 13 sacks, fourth in the NFL and a career best. He is the first Minnesota defensive end chosen for three straight Pro Bowls since Chris Doleman went to four straight from 1987-90.
Rhodes has shut down top receivers all season, including Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown and Atlanta's Julio Jones. He is the first Vikings cornerback selected to two straight Pro Bowls since Antoine Winfield made it three straight from 2008-10.
Barr made the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season even though he admitted he played below expectations. He bounced back this season and had been hopeful of earning another trip to Orlando.
"I would be humbled and blessed to have that opportunity,'' Barr recently said.
Thielen, of Detroit Lakes, Minn., was undrafted out of Division II Minnesota State Mankato before making the Vikings' practice squad in 2013. In 2014 and 2015, he primarily was a special-teams player, catching just 20 passes those two seasons.
Thielen broke loose last year with 69 catches for 967 yards and this season has been even better. He has 83 catches for 1,191 yards.
Thielen is the first Minnesota receiver since Sidney Rice in 2009 to have a 1,000-yard campaign. Excluding kick returners, he is the first Vikings receiver chosen to the Pro Bowl since Rice that season.
"I tried not to think about it too much, but what a great honor to be selected,'' Thielen told NFL Network.
In addition to the four players chosen and Smith and Joseph, the Vikings also had touted quarterback Case Keenum, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, tight end Kyle Rudolph, tackle Riley Reiff and linebacker Eric Kendricks as Pro Bowl candidates.
Other Minnesota players still have a chance to make the Pro Bowl. Some players will be replaced because of injury, and all Pro Bowl selections who make the Super Bowl will be replaced.
"I'm hoping that none of our Pro Bowlers are playing in the Pro Bowl,'' Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said Monday. "We've got bigger things at stake.''