For as long as Adam Thielen can remember, he and best bud Stefon Diggs have been attached at the hip.

The two receivers both started their NFL careers as overlooked afterthoughts, rising to prominence slowly but surely, and eventually giving the Vikings perhaps the best one-two pass-catching punch in the league.

All the while they leaned on each other for support, on the field whenever a double team came, and off the field whenever criticism rained down.

That’s no longer the case now, and Thielen must go it alone this season. The Vikings’ receiving corps changed when the team traded Diggs to the Buffalo Bills on March 20.

“Honestly, it’s different not having him here,” Thielen said.

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In that same breath Thielen quickly shifted the narrative, emphasizing how impressed he has been with his fellow receivers, like first-round draft pick Justin Jefferson, second-year standout Olabisi Johnson and third-down option Tajae Sharpe. There are other potential breakout players, as well, like route-running savant Chad Beebe or undrafted free agent Quartney Davis.

“We have a great group of guys,” Thielen said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with them. I’ve had so much fun these past couple of weeks being around them. I’m looking forward to seeing these guys compete and trying to prove that I can still do it as well.”

That starts in earnest on Friday at TCO Performance Center in Eagan when the Vikings will host their first practice. That’s where Thielen, who turns 30 later this month, will gets his first taste on what life is like as the focal point of opponents’ secondaries.

While that reality likely won’t be fully apparent until the Sept. 13 season opener against the Green Bay Packers, there’s no doubt Thielen will have more attention than ever without Diggs also split out wide.

Not that Thielen is focused on that right now.

Instead, the Detroit Lakes, Minn., native and former Minnesota State Mankato star is hellbent on making sure his body is in top shape after a less-than-impressive 2019 season.

He signed a four-year, $64.8 million contract extension before last season, then followed it up with 30 receptions for 418 yards and 6 touchdowns. Those weren’t exactly the 2018 numbers — 113 receptions, 1373 yards, 9 touchdowns — that earned him his new big-dollar contract.

The biggest culprit in Thielen’s dip in production was the lingering hamstring injury that forced him to miss nearly half the season. He suffered the injury while making a diving touchdown catch against the Detroit Lions in Week 7 and never truly seemed right after that.

Most of his offseason training was focused on making sure something like that doesn’t happen again.

“For me, it was focus on my body, my nutrition, getting after it, and training to become a better athlete,” Thielen said. “I really think when everybody does that, and focuses on those things, when we come back together we are already a better team before we’ve even stepped on the practice field.”

Now that the Vikings finally are back on the practice field, Thielen also wants to be a sounding board for some of the younger guys on the team. His rise from undrafted Division II college player is well-documented, and he knows he has something to offer from that standpoint.

“I want to help everybody become the best player they can be, and if they want to use me as a resource, I’m here,” Thielen said. “They all know that. I love this game of football. And I love to teach it and to use what I’ve learned to share with these young guys.”

Think of it as Thielen paying it forward.

“I was talking to a couple of the guys the other day, just talking about how much I took from certain guys I’ve played with,” he said. “If I can be a resource, and maybe it’s only one thing that they take from me, I think that’s pretty cool. Because there were so many guys that played in front of me, or came in the same year, or maybe came in after me, that I’ve taken little things from their game and implemented in mine.”