Having posted a career-high 23 catches through his first five games — and averaging 8.48 yards per target in that time — Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph took a moment on social media this week to tweak fans who assume he’s not capable of being much of a big-play threat.
“Haters will say it’s fake,” Rudolph tweeted Tuesday, quoting a Vikings PR official who pointed out nearly half of Rudolph’s 229 yards have come after the catch, and that he’s eighth among NFL tight ends with 113 yards after catches.
The 28-year-old allowed a bit of his frustration to show on Thursday over the idea he doesn’t have the speed to turn catches into big gains.
“It’s kind of been the perception here for a while, but the numbers are what they are,” he said. “When my number is called, I’m just going to try to do what I can to help this team win football games, and that’s by catching the football and running with it.
“I mean, I’m not the fastest guy in the world, and I’m not the most elusive guy in the world. But if I get the ball in my hands and it’s a third down, I’m trying to do everything I can to get to the sticks.”
Rudolph, who went to the Pro Bowl after the 2012 and 2017 seasons, said it’s the nature of the tight end position at times to operate with a level of obscurity.
“Actually, [tight ends coach] Todd Downing and I were having this conversation yesterday — obviously, he’s new to working with the tight ends,” Rudolph said. “He said, ‘Man, I didn’t realize you guys are really important on just about every play.’ You kind of take it for granted, until you’re coaching the position and you’re in the room. Although we may be on the backside of a formation, a lot of times, balls are turning and they’re coming right to you. If you just do a ‘B’ job, and you’re just doing OK, you’re going to get exposed.”
Cook on the mend
Running back Dalvin Cook, who was limited Wednesday because of a hamstring injury, was a full participant in practice Thursday for the first time since he was first injured against the Packers on Sept. 16.
Cook was limited to 18 snaps against the Rams on Sept. 27, and didn’t play on Sunday against the Eagles, but his work in practice Thursday would suggest he’s on track to return Sunday against the Cardinals.
“It just adds another dynamic piece and a guy you can move around a lot and do some things with, unique things with and get creative,” offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said. “We are excited that he is back.”
Reiff, Sendejo still out
Left tackle Riley Reiff missed a second consecutive day of practice because of a foot injury.
Reiff also missed two days of practice before the Vikings’ game against the Rams because of a foot injury before participating in full in the final practice of the week and starting that game. He was a full participant in all three practices last week, but left the Eagles game in the second quarter.
Safety Andrew Sendejo (groin) and defensive end Tashawn Bower (ankle) missed practice for a second day in a row.
With Bower potentially missing a second consecutive game because of injury and Everson Griffen still away from the team, the Vikings could again have only two healthy defensive ends on Sunday against the Cardinals. Defensive tackle Jalyn Holmes, active for the first time Sunday in Philadelphia, played seven snaps against the Eagles and worked with the Vikings’ pass rushers during individual drills Thursday.
“He’s stepped in, he’s got good awareness, he takes coaching, he works hard every day,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “The experience part of it — game experience — is the hardest thing, but they get a lot of reps in practice as we go through the offseason, as we go through training camp. Hopefully we can just see that transfer from practice to the game. The biggest thing is to try and get him in all situations, where he doesn’t have to be thinking and he can use his athleticism and just line up and play.”