Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes returned to his alma mater Saturday to help with the Spartan Elite football camp, a one-day event that takes a look at high school athletes. Waynes attended the same camp, which resulted in a scholarship and jump-started his journey to the NFL. Other NFL players who formerly played at Michigan State also joined Waynes, including Buccaneers defensive end Will Gholston and Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton.
Lansing State Journal reporter Chris Solari caught up with Waynes and talked with him about the camp and preparing for his second NFL season.
"It shows the kids and the recruits how committed we are to this program and how much it means to us," Waynes told Solari. "For us to take time out of our free time to come back to Michigan State and work a camp shows how much this university means to us."
Waynes told Solari he learned a lot during his rookie campaign with the Vikings, whether it be from playing behind veteran cornerback Terence Newman or adjusting to playing style. Solari wrote:
Waynes said some of that has to do with adjusting to the hands-off NFL officiating. In college, he and former teammate Darqueze Dennard got more leniency in making contact with receivers downfield. It's more about employing techniques he learned at MSU rather than discovering something new, Waynes said.
"In the NFL, you can't really touch receivers that much, so that's kind of a negative. After five yards, you can't really put your hands on them," Waynes told Solari. "But here (at MSU), you know how aggressive we played. But it's also helped because we had a coach like Coach (Harlon) Barnett who had experience here and at the next level. He was able to translate that to us."
Barnett played for the Vikings from 1995-96.
Kyle Rudolph prides himself on wide-range skillset
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is entering his six season with Minnesota and third with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The two built more chemistry last season and laid the foundation for a lasting connection.
Rudolph finished the 2015 season with 49 receptions for 495 yards. Although he didn't top the charts for receiving yards, Rudolph said his well-rounded skillset sets him apart from other tight ends. Chris Tomasson of the *Pioneer Press *talked to Rudolph to ask his thoughts on last season and expectations for 2016.
"I know that when I come to work every Monday, and I (watch) the film, I may have only caught two balls, but if I did my job in the run game and pass protection, (Vikings coach Mike Zimmer) is going to be happy," Rudolph told Tomasson.
Rudolph said the biggest thing is coming back and feeling 100 percent health-wise after he missed a chunk of the 2014 season due to injuries.
"It's like getting your oil changed and (then) you're as good as new," Rudolph told Tomasson. "For me, it was good to get out there 16 times last year in the regular season and feel my best in the playoff game in January."
Rudolph had three games late last season with six or more catches. Now, he and Bridgewater are looking to build on their chemistry.
"I want to have the best season that I've had as a Viking," Rudolph told Tomasson. "It's no secret we need to become more balanced, and I think I play a part in that."