Tight end Kyle Rudolph’s right ankle is now healthy enough to run, jump, catch and block.
“Well, I don’t know if I could [block] healthy,” Rudolph joked Wednesday. “I feel good. We’ve run around a little bit. It feels a lot better the last three weeks when I was trying to get through.”
The Vikings are near full strength heading into Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff against the Saints. That’s the benefit of a bye week after the regular season, an ending Rudolph admittedly dragged his injured ankle through without missing a game.
Rudolph was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, a sign he’s as healthy as he says.
“Did you watch me play?” Rudolph asked rhetorically. “I was pretty limited.”
Rudolph, third on the Vikings with 57 catches this season, saw a limited role while playing injured. He caught only four passes in the past three games after injuring his ankle in Carolina on Dec. 10.
One of the Vikings’ top red-zone threats is expected to be back in his normal role Sunday.
“I feel a lot better,” Rudolph said. “I don’t think you could say anyone is 100 percent in the middle of January, but I definitely feel a lot better with that time off.”
Mike Zimmer isn’t going to let a lack of playoff experience be an excuse for anybody on his roster, including quarterback Case Keenum. Keenum will make his playoff debut Sunday against the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees, who has 12 career playoff starts and a Super Bowl ring.
“The things we’ve done during the regular season,” Zimmer said, “taking care of the ball, throwing it to the right spot, getting us in the right checks, so on and so forth, are more important than playoff experience.”
Brees, the 6-foot future Hall of Fame quarterback, did have a theory for why he and Keenum, listed at 6-1, have found success despite not living up to the prototype of tall pocket passers.
“It’s because we’re both Texas kids,” Brees said before a pause. “No, seriously.”
Seeing a shadow?
Neither the Vikings’ Xavier Rhodes nor the Saints’ Marshon Lattimore traveled to follow the opponent’s top receiver during the Week 1 matchup. They’ve both done plenty of shadowing since, meaning receiver Adam Thielen could see plenty of the Saints’ top draft pick from last spring.
Lattimore leads the Saints with five interceptions.
“Lattimore, he’s not playing like a rookie,” Thielen said. “You can see that the last few weeks on tape.”
Near full strength
Only two Vikings — cornerback Terence Newman (foot) and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (ankle) — were limited in Wednesday’s practice.
Rhodes (foot), Rudolph, fullback C.J. Ham (neck) and safety Anthony Harris (knee) were full participants.