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Bridgewater, Rudolph Developing Lasting Connection for Vikings

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —The Vikings wrapped their offseason program with four quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Taylor Heinicke and rookie Joel Stave.

Bridgewater sees a metaphorical fifth in the Vikings huddle when he looks at Kyle Rudolph or chats on the sidelines with the tight end.

"When we're not in together on the playing field, we're on the sidelines talking about different things that we can improve on," Bridgewater said. "So, I consider him another quarterback because of how smart he is. He understands the game.

"He understands what the coaching staff wants us to do, and he wants to know where the ball is going," he added. "So, he's studying the plays as if he was a quarterback, and that's the type of guy you want on your team." 

As Bridgewater and Rudolph enter their third season together, the connection they've forged seems to be getting stronger — on and off the field.

Bridgewater said last week that his rapport with Rudolph has grown with experience over time.

Injuries forced Rudolph to miss seven games in 2014, the same season Bridgewater took over the starting job as a rookie. Rudolph finished the 2014 campaign with 24 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns.

The pair improved their connection last season when Rudolph led the team with five touchdown catches and nabbed 49 catches for 495 yards.

"It's just trust. Think about it, my first year, Kyle was a little banged up," Bridgewater said. "And then last year, we started off a little slow, but as we continue to trust each other … I remember Coach Zimmer coming up to me and telling me, 'Hey, trust Kyle. Trust him a little more.'

"Hearing those words just told me to understand what the coaching staff is asking of me and just continue to build trust in Kyle, and he's going to come through for us," he added.

This showed in Minnesota's November game against Green Bay. Rudolph finished with six catches for a career-high 106 yards and a career long 47-yard touchdown.

"I think the Green Bay game was big for us in terms of building our confidence, not only in the passing game in general but in each other," Rudolph said.

The relationship has grown stronger off the field as well.

The pair teamed up last week to prank Vikings rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and frequently support each other's community initiatives.

"He's a great player, and he's an even better person," Bridgewater said. "He's reliable on and off the football field. He's a guy you can call and be like, 'Hey Kyle, do you mind coming out to one of my events?'

"And he won't hesitate to say yes," he added. "He's great in the locker room with the guys, and on the football field, he's always in the right place at the right time."

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