Rudolph aiming, again, for productive year with Vikings
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Kyle Rudolph's main goal on the field is to get open. The Minnesota Vikings tight end has already been covered more than ever this year.
With a huge tattoo, that is: He has added a colorful tribute to his family, blanketing his left arm.
''Four grandparents, mom, dad, brother and sister,'' Rudolph said, ''and then I got a shamrock for obvious reasons.''
That's a nod to alma mater Notre Dame, where Rudolph first began to envision this artwork. He finally followed through this offseason. The inking project in his hometown of Cincinnati took 51 hours over six days.
Rudolph's NFL career has been percolating slowly, too.
He has played in all 16 games just once, in 2012, and he has missed about half the schedule the last two years. The second-round draft pick in 2011 has yet to pass 500 yards receiving in a season, despite his exceptional skill as a pass-catcher and ideal size at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds.
Last year, he needed double sports hernia surgery and missed seven games.
''He's working hard. He's had a great offseason with his body to try to make sure that he doesn't have those nagging injuries. But when he's healthy and running like he's been the last three weeks, it's exciting to have him,'' offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. ''We'll get some coverage on the outside with the speed we have. He can open it up a lot. He'll get matchups if they're going to play eight-man fronts.''
Turner's offense, like predecessor Bill Musgrave's, has been touted as well-suited for a tight end like Rudolph. The Vikings are still waiting for the payoff. Rudolph had 24 receptions for 231 yards and two touchdowns last season, all career lows.
He spent some of the winter at a training facility, Proactive Sports Performance, in the Los Angeles area. With the frustration of missing so much time to injuries as motivation, Rudolph followed a more disciplined diet and incorporated yoga exercises and sand running into his regimen.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was in a small group of Vikings teammates who joined Rudolph in Southern California for several days of bonding, relaxing and, of course, working out. Bridgewater was halfway through answering a reporter's question last week about the acquisition of wide receiver Mike Wallace when he blurted out unprompted praise for and excitement about Rudolph. The two played only six games together last year.
''He's like a whole new player on the team,'' Bridgewater said.
Especially with that menacing tattoo.
''We're just going to let people think that I'm tougher now, but really everyone knows that it's still me,'' said Rudolph, whose clean-cut look, blond hair and boyish smile clash a bit with the ink on his arm.
Rudolph looked relaxed and confident during several waves of interviews following practice on Thursday, which marked the conclusion of the second of three clusters of organized team activities for the Vikings before the mandatory minicamp from June 16-18.
His eyes brightened when asked about the other addition the offense is counting on this season, running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson rejoined the team this week, after a hiatus of nearly eight months that stemmed from the child abuse case he was involved in with his young son.
''Just in the three days that he's been here, our practices have been pretty crisp, a little bit more upbeat, and that's what great players do,'' Rudolph said. ''They elevate the game of, not only themselves, but the guys around them.''
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