EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Kyle Rudolph isn’t worried about the rumors and outside noise of the 2019 offseason.
If the Vikings tight end has his way, he will be in Minnesota for the entirety of his career.
But with the Vikings up against the NFL’s salary cap limit, some speculation surrounding the former second-round draft pick occurred over the weekend after a report by NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
Rudolph chatted with the Twin Cities media at Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s inaugurual golf tournament Monday at Bearpath Country Club.
“I can’t focus on that a whole lot. I’m at voluntary workouts every day like I’ve always been. I’m not going to change my approach to this football team and what this organization means to me,” Rudolph said at the Mike Zimmer Golf Classic. “My focus each and every day is getting better as a player. When I’m better as a player, that will help this team be better, this offense be better.
“It’s very evident that if we want to get to where we want to be, we have to get better on the offensive side of the football,” Rudolph added. “As a leader of this offense, a guy that’s been around here a long time, that’s me getting better individually, so that’s my focus right now, and until I hear otherwise, that’s all I can worry about.”
Zimmer, who said his focus Monday was on his foundation’s impact in the community, gave a brief answer when asked about Rudolph.
“I’ve had conversations with Kyle. Quite honestly, I really love all my players,” Zimmer said. “We expect Kyle to be here. Sometimes business gets in the way, but we’re not here to talk about that today.”
The Vikings used the 50th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft on Alabama tight end Irv Smith, Jr. Rudolph said he hopes the two can work together in 2019 to bring success to Minnesota’s offense.
“He’s a good player. We got to work together today for the first time, and I had talked to [Vikings General Manager] Rick [Spielman] about it,” Rudolph said. “I’m completely on-board with the philosophy of, you have to take the best player, and he was the best player available at that time. I think he can help our offense.
“The term mismatch gets thrown around a lot, and being in 11 personnel, having three wide receivers [one running back and one tight end], you can be a pass-catching tight end and you’re not necessarily creating mismatches because there’s an extra DB on the field, so for us to have both of us on the field at the same time, that’s how you create mismatches, and that’s how teams have kind of dictated things to defenses,” Rudolph added. “When we have two tight ends on the field, we can dictate the tempo of the play. We have control and not the defense.”
Rudolph has started 104 of 112 games played for the Vikings. Over eight seasons, he has totaled 386 receptions for 3,787 yards (9.8 yards per catch). His 41 receiving touchdowns in that span are tied for third-most in his draft class behind wide receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones, and his catches rank fourth in the class. Both totals are the most by any tight end drafted in 2011.
The two-time Pro Bowler (2012, 2017) ranks eighth all-time in Vikings history in career catches and ninth in receiving yards. His touchdowns rank fifth all-time behind Cris Carter (110), Randy Moss (92), Anthony Carter (52) and Sammy White (50) and are the most in team history by a tight end.
Rudolph said he hoped to get some clarity on the situation “sooner rather than later.” The Vikings begin Organized Team Activity practices next week.
The 29-year-old has also given his time, effort and energy back to Minnesota as he has made a tremendous off-field impact.
Rudolph, twice nominated by the Vikings for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, and his family officially opened Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in March 2018 after extensive hands-on fundraising efforts.
But Rudolph said Monday that he also understands the business side of the league.
“Business decisions have to be made. [Even] if we’re not here, if the Rudolph family is not here and we’re playing somewhere else, it doesn’t mean that our impact on this community would change,” Rudolph said. “Unfortunately, business decisions have to be made, and there’s a lot of good guys in this league. Unfortunately, being a good guy can’t outweigh business decisions that have to be made. I understand that.
“I would certainly hope they don’t just keep me here because I’m a good guy and do good things in the community,” Rudolph added. “I would like to think that they keep me because I’m a good football player, but when you’re a good football player and a good person, I think that makes it that much harder and makes them want to do that much more.”