NBC’s Thanksgiving Tradition Revealed Something About Each Of Minnesota’s Star Players

Photo Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have won again, and afterward they feasted upon the bones of their enemies!

Wait, no, sorry, I got a little bit over-excited there.

The Vikings did win, though, moving to 9-2. And, as is Thanksgiving night football tradition, the Madden-branded stars of the game were invited to eat enormous turkey legs while simultaneously giving live interviews to a larger audience than the president gets for the State of the Union.

It’s a truly bizarre but endearing tradition, created by the bizarre but truly endearing coach and broadcaster John Madden. Even in its most stage-managed and self-aware incarnation, all these many years after Madden himself stopped hosting the event, it retains its charm — especially when your team is in the winner’s circle. It’s an opportunity the Vikings have never even gotten before.

Three fairly obvious players were chosen to represent the Vikings for the big turkey munch-off: Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen. Before the start of the interview, the interception-prone defensive stalwart Patrick Peterson picked off a turkey leg — quite literally — and sprinted away while chowing down, which was delightfully on brand.

But afterwards, as NBC’s Melissa Stark interviewed the Viking heroes while they were expected to chow down, their specific approaches to eating the turkey legs revealed their individual personalities and why each player is such an asset to the team.

Kirk Cousins

Look, Kirk Cousins has eaten a turkey leg on TV before, back in 2017 during his time in Washington. He made sure to point that out during the interview, which is kind of a New Kirk vibe. It’s a not-quite-humblebrag from a humble guy who has recently embraced showing off his secret 14-pack stomach in diamond-necklace-draped post-game celebration videos.

But something else Cousins said — beyond his offhand reference to one of his other rare primetime victories — resonated more. He said he’d been thinking about eating another turkey leg on Thanksgiving night TV for a while. And it really showed.

Watch Cousins’ form when he chomps into that turkey leg. It’s highly professional. Note that he takes almost cartoonishly small bites. That’s exactly what media trainers instruct you to do if you’re on a cooking show or a talk show with a cooking segment. It allows you to taste and appreciate the dish without ever interrupting your ability to keep speaking. And your mother never even has to yell at you for having your mouth full.

That’s pro stuff. That’s Cousins the savvy game manager. That’s the Cousins who knows how this whole crazy circus works. But don’t be surprised if he took a huge bite when no one was looking and the moment allowed. He’s been dealing out big plays to Justin Jefferson, including some daring 50/50 balls, all year. For Cousins, it’s all about smartly navigating the situation until you can take the big bite.

Oh, and speaking of Jefferson…

Justin Jefferson

Jefferson gamely picked up a turkey leg as a prop for his interview, but he declined to take a bite. When pressed, he explained that he would eat some turkey later, but pointed out that he couldn’t at the moment because he hadn’t taken out his grills yet.

This is, objectively, the coolest reason to ever not eat turkey. Your vegan cousin, your armchair chef brother-in-law who would prefer duck or pheasant, your picky kid who says it’s bland — all of these folks have a decent case against turkey. If turkey was so amazing, we’d fire it up more than once a year. But absolutely none of these other people has an excuse as amazing as “I haven’t taken my grills out yet” before they flash a diamond-studded smile.

Jefferson is just so [censored by Kirk Cousins] cool. He’s a superstar mega-talent with an amiable vibe who never feigns humility but doesn’t do a lot of smack-talking either. He just plays brilliantly and shows off every inch of those grills afterward in his postgame grin.

Let’s face it, Minneapolis is basically a giant high school, and Jefferson is the prom king who is so cool he never has to be a jerk about it because his coolness is certified and undeniable.

Oh, and after he declined to eat turkey on camera, thus sparing himself from looking like a bit of a dork — JJ would never! — Jefferson mentioned that he planned on having his favorite Louisiana-style seafood stuffing when he got home. Louisiana cooking is the best, so, even in the postgame, Jefferson gets the culinary TD.

Adam Thielen

Are you aware that hometown hero Thielen hails from the Detroit Lakes area?

Of course you are. Thielen is a true salt-of-the-earth local, and he behaved exactly as promised in his post-game chow-down.

Our boy took some big shots on Thursday night, including a brutal drill to the neck that drew a 15-yard penalty. But the resilient Thielen kept bouncing back up, catching some key passes, including a nifty TD.

He was jazzed and, like a true man of the people, he took a huge bite of turkey leg. It came back to haunt him. When the mic came his way, Thielen was still struggling with his big ol’ mouthful of turkey like it was the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense. Unlike the secretly savvy Cousins, he didn’t know about the nibbles-on-TV thing.

Thielen then made a total power move by declaring the turkey dry, thus explaining his inability to speak through the sandstorm of sawdusty foul clogging his pie hole. He briefly stepped away. But these professional NFL camera people are true pros, and the NBC folks actually zoomed out and panned over to reveal Thielen spitting out turkey like it was sauerkraut-flavored Gatorade. It was an endearingly subversive move from a guy who knows how to outplay his coverage.

But it’s also not how you get endorsements from Pizza Ranch.

Game, set, match, Kirk.

Does This Mean They Will Win The Super Bowl?


Probably not.

But maybe.

The big Thanksgiving night game against the Patriots showed that the Vikings are resilient, they’re consistent, and they are for real. They might not be the best team in the league, but they can beat some of the best teams in the league on any given Sunday. Or Thursday. Maybe a Saturday in January? They’re all but a lock for the NFC North playoff spot and a legit contender for the top seed. (On Sunday, go…Green Bay? That feels weird.)

These guys are good. And maybe what’s best about them is that they all approach the turkey leg from a different angle. A big reason they’re such a likable squad is that they seem mismatched yet so harmonious. They make you believe that the strongest group is the one made up of the most different kinds of people, all working together. And isn’t that the most hopeful interpretation of Thanksgiving you could ask for?

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