MINNEAPOLIS - Mild-mannered Adam Thielen can be quite the ornery cuss between the white lines of an NFL field.
But, sorry Adam, if sideline tiffs with Bill Belichick were an Olympic sport, you'd have to settle for bronze. And that's just among three notable Belichickian Battles witnessed by this observer going back to Week 1 of the 1992 season.
In the Vikings' 24-10 loss to the Patriots on Sunday, Thielen took vehement offense when Patriots safety Patrick Chung suddenly collapsed because of an injury at precisely the moment Belichick needed more time to study the homefield replay board and challenge the spot on a fourth-and-1 play.
Not that the Patriots bend the rules or anything (wink, wink), but it did look somewhat suspect. So Thielen exploded with objection about 10 yards from Belichick.
Lip readers have said Belichick told Thielen to shut the heck up. Or something to that effect.
What happened next wouldn't have happened in the early '90s in Cleveland: one of Belichick's players stepping in to defend him. This kind of player devotion tends to happen more often when you're not an arrogant, unproven 39-year-old but a 66-year-old living legend with a record five Super Bowls and more wins than anyone not named Shula or Halas.
It was Kyle Van Noy who got in Thielen's face as the latter jabbed an accusatory finger in Belichick's direction.
"I thought that was the coolest thing that KV had Bill's back right away," said Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty. "Bill's fiery. We see it every day, so I think it's probably a lot cooler for (the media) to see it."
Thielen will be happy to know the silver medalist in sideline Belichickian Battles is Hall of Famer Cris Carter.
On Dec. 9, 1995, Belichick's Browns were at the Metrodome putting together a 27-11 loss five weeks after it was announced they'd be moving to Baltimore the following season.
Linebacker Mike Caldwell was flagged for a late hit on Carter near the Browns sideline. Carter objected as passionately as only Carter could.
Indications were Belichick questioned Carter's toughness in unflattering terms. Carter and Belichick got into a heated back and forth.
"He used words that I don't agree with, that I don't use when I talk to another human being," Carter said after the game. "I just wanted to let him know that he can't talk to me that way. That's probably part of the reason why his team is in the position it's in.
"You have to treat people like people. That's one of the things that he's had a hard time doing. He has a lot of talent, but he has no type of personality to deal with individuals."
Belichick later denied he said anything to Carter to start the exchange.
And the gold medal in the sideline Belichickian Battles goes to Reggie Langhorne, yet another receiver and the first player Belichick had a run-in with as a 39-year-old rookie head coach in Cleveland in 1991.
Langhorne was one of the popular veterans on an aging 3-13 team Belichick inherited. Like many of them, he didn't like or respect Belichick.
As their feud boiled over early that season, Belichick confronted Langhorne and accused him of not hustling in practice. Langhorne countered by refusing to come out of the locker room for the start of practice.
Belichick wanted to demote him to the practice squad. Langhorne refused and was fined $15,000 and told he wouldn't be making that week's trip to New York to play the Giants. That cost him another $30,000.
After the season, Belichick put Langhorne on the team's Plan B free-agency list, calling him the "most selfish player I've ever coached."
The Colts signed Langhorne. And guess who the Colts opened with at home on Sept. 6, 1992? Yep, the Browns.
The Colts sacked Bernie Kosar 11 times. They were leading 7-3 in the third quarter when Mark Herrmann threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to - you guessed it - Langhorne.
Langhorne turned toward the Cleveland sideline, said some choice words and then whipped the ball at Belichick.
He wouldn't elaborate after the Colts' 14-3 win. He just smiled and said, "If you'd have caught me after the touchdown and heard the things I was saying, you might have gotten a good quote."
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