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Kendricks' Contract Extension Anchored in Consistency, Culture

Posted Apr 16, 2018

EAGAN, Minn. — The man in the middle of the Vikings defense isn’t going anywhere.

The team announced Monday that it has signed linebacker Eric Kendricks to a multi-year contract extension.

Kendricks has led the Vikings in tackles in each of his first three seasons in Purple, tallying 367 total tackles (according to coaches’ tally) during that span. But he sees himself as just another piece in a top-ranked unit.

“I don’t look at myself as the heartbeat,” Kendricks told Vikings.com. “I look at myself as the you-can-count-on-me kind of thing. You know that I’m going to be there and be a consistent player.”

The former second-round pick in 2015 (45th overall) now knows he’ll be in Minnesota for the long haul, with an organization he knew he wanted to stay with.

“I am just happy we got this deal done. I want to be a Viking for sure,” Kendricks said on a conference call with the Twin Cities media. “I am happy to be a part of this team and what we have going here. We have a special locker room and a fun defense.”

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said the feeling was mutual between the team and its playmaking linebacker.

“Eric is just another young core player for us,” Spielman said. “Great player on the field. He represents us in a first-class way out in the community. He is a leader in the defense. He is a leader in the locker room.

“His work ethic, his prep that he puts in week-in and week-out is why he is such a dynamic player on Sunday,” Spielman added. “Hopefully we will continue to add players like Eric as we continue to build this roster and move forward.”

Kendricks has led the Vikings in tackles in each of his first three seasons in Purple, tallying 367 total tackles (according to coaches’ tally) during that span.

Kendricks has upped his tackle total over the past three seasons, going from 105 in 2015 to 126 in 2016 to 136 this past season.

He also has 7.5 career sacks (5.5 of which have come against NFC North opponents), along with 30 tackles for loss, two interceptions, 16 passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Kendricks also has a nose for the end zone, as he has returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns.

The first was a 77-yard score against Tennessee in the 2016 season opener. He also scored from 31 yards out against Cincinnati in Week 15 of the 2017 season at U.S. Bank Stadium.

But for as much on-field success as Kendricks and the Vikings have accomplished over the past three seasons, the linebacker pointed to the culture and vibe of the organization as a reason for wanting to stay in Minnesota.

“I just don’t come in to work, I’m never upset coming in to work. I’m just always happy,” Kendricks said. “Smile on my face, because I feel like I have a bunch of guys who are just like-minded, want to get the same things done as me. Same values, it’s just fun.”

Kendricks has been a mainstay in the Vikings defense since becoming a starter in Week 4 of the 2015 season. He helped the unit rank first in points, yards allowed and third-down defense during a historic 2017 season.

The 26-year-old talked to Vikings.com about his progression over the years.

“This is my fourth year, and it’s crazy because it seems like yesterday was my first year,” Kendricks said. “I’ve become more familiar with the defense and the terminology … kind of making it our own and taking ownership of it.

“With the guys I play with, everyone has kind of been there that I’ve started with,” Kendricks added. “We’re getting familiar, but we’re also improving on things we missed and might have made mistakes on in the past and always getting better.”

A native of Fresno, California, Kendricks grew up in a single-parent household along with his brother, Mychal, a linebacker for the Eagles.

Kendricks said he surprised his mother, Yvonne Thagon, with the news Monday morning.

“She knows now, but I didn’t tell her before … I kind of wanted her to be surprised by it,” Kendricks said. “I just called her. She was at work, so she was kind of mad, but she showed me love.

“She wasn’t emotional. It’s a little bit different this time around because, I don’t want to say she expected it, but I’m the second one going through this,” Kendricks added. “My brother has been through it before me. But she knows I put the work in and that I work hard. It’s definitely huge for her.”

Kendricks’ contract extension came on the same day the Vikings returned to work for their voluntary offseason workout program.

The linebacker soaked up his accomplishment but then turned his focus on helping the Vikings chase their goals for the 2018 season.

“It’s pretty crazy with everything I’ve been through, but I’m so happy,” Kendricks said. “It’s a weight off my shoulders, but I’m just ready to get back to work at this point.”