EAGAN, Minn. — Whether receiving, blocking or — in pandemic times — mentally prepping as an emergency backup quarterback, Kyle Rudolph places an emphasis on sportsmanship.
The tight end, who is in his 10th pro season, has been selected as the Vikings nominee for the 2020 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, the NFL announced Thursday.
"It means a lot. That's an award you see every year when you're voting for the Pro Bowl, and you see the guys that are always nominated for that award, and they're usually guys that have been around this league for a long time and have success on and off the field," Rudolph said during his Thursday media session.
"I always try to pride myself on being a good teammate, being one that's there for younger guys who are in the situation that I was once in," Rudolph continued. "And then also, it carries over to Sundays. We're competing like crazy out there every Sunday, but at the same time, it's a brotherhood with a bunch of other guys across the league, and I just try to have a good time and enjoy living out a childhood dream."
Well, almost all of that childhood dream so far.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer disclosed this week that if Minnesota found itself in a situation like Denver last week (the Broncos had to quarantine all of their rostered quarterbacks because of coronavirus policies), Adam Thielen is usually the emergency QB.
The receiver, however, was unavailable last week because he was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, so Zimmer said Rudolph would have been next in line.
The Vikings equipment staff fitted him for a helmet with a communications device on Friday.
"The last time I officially played quarterback in a game was fourth grade, but I'm an athlete," Rudolph said. "Obviously I hoped that I never had to put on my helmet with the microphone … because it certainly wouldn't be a good situation.
"I'd like to think that I have a pretty good grasp of the offense right up there with the quarterbacks, so I have a feeling that if I'm in at quarterback I'm just handing the ball to Dalvin [Cook] a lot, so I think I could handle that," Rudolph added.
Rudolph has continued climbing the Vikings receiving leaderboard, ranking fifth with 453 catches, 10th with 4,488 yards and fifth with 48 touchdowns. He leads all NFL tight ends with an active streak of 92 consecutive starts.
The award has been presented each year since 2014 to an NFL player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
A panel of NFL Legends — Warrick Dunn, Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler — will select four finalists from the AFC and four finalists from the NFC. The finalists will be listed on the Pro Bowl ballot. Current players are scheduled to cast their ballots on Dec. 18. Like Pro Bowl voting, teams can't vote for their own players.
The winner will be announced as part of NFL Honors, the annual awards show that precedes the Super Bowl, and receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of his choice.
Arizona: S Budda Baker | Atlanta: C Alex Mack | Baltimore: DE Calais Campbell | Buffalo: CB Tre'Davious White | Carolina: QB Teddy Bridgewater | Chicago: LB Khalil Mack | Cincinnati: LB Josh Bynes | Cleveland: RB Nick Chubb | Dallas: RB Ezekiel Elliott | Denver: CB Bryce Callahan | Detroit: C Frank Ragnow | Green Bay: QB Aaron Rodgers | Houston: DT Brandon Dunn | Indianapolis: DE Justin Houston | Jacksonville: DE/LB Josh Allen | Kansas City: QB Patrick Mahomes | Las Vegas: QB Derek Carr | L.A. Chargers: DE Joey Bosa | L.A. Rams: S John Johnson | Miami: LB Kyle Van Noy | Minnesota: TE Kyle Rudolph | New England: WR Matthew Slater | New Orleans T Ryan Ramczyk | N.Y. Giants: DB Logan Ryan | N.Y. Jets: DL Folorunso Fatukasi | Philadelphia: C Jason Kelce | Pittsburgh: DT Cameron Heyward | San Francisco: FB Kyle Juszczyk | Seattle: LB K.J. Wright | Tampa Bay: LB Lavonte David | Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill | Washington: WR Terry McLaurin
2019: RB Adrian Peterson, Washington
2018: QB Drew Brees, New Orleans
2017: LB Luke Kuechly, Carolina
2016: RB Frank Gore, Indianapolis
2015: CB Charles Woodson, Oakland
2014: WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona