MINNEAPOLIS –The 2016 season will mark Kyle Rudolph's sixth with the Vikings and third with Teddy Bridgewater, and Rudolph has nothing but praise for his quarterback.
"A lot of people ask about Teddy's growth," Rudolph told "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen during Friday morning's 9 to Noon KFAN broadcast. "It's incredible to watch a kid come in at 21 years old, has an incredible rookie season and then just the way he [continues] to work."
Rudolph may be three years Bridgewater's elder, but he looks to Bridgewater daily as a leader on the field.
"He goes to work every day," Rudolph said. "He's an incredible leader – not only of our offense but of our team. The guys look up to him."
Rudolph missed a majority of Bridgewater's rookie season due to injury. In 2015, the tight end returned to the field and began to strengthen his rapport with Bridgewater.
ProFootballTalk.com founder Mike Florio visited Minnesota Thursday for a look at U.S. Bank Stadium, and he spoke about the increased trust between the two teammates.
"I think that's a lot of it – the chemistry, the camaraderie," Florio said. "Games are still won by the ability to gain 10, 15, 20 yards on a consistent basis, and that's where Kyle Rudolph comes into play. He's been very unselfish about his diminished role in the passing game, and I think he's in a position now to expand his role.
"One thing that's very important for Teddy to realize is that a guy like Kyle Rudolph, given his size and given his wingspan, even if it looks like he's covered, he's still open," Florio added. "You have to be willing to throw the ball and trust him to go get it."
Bridgewater's confidence in Rudolph to get open and make a play has grown immensely. Conversely, Rudolph exudes a high level of trust in his quarterback. He identified Bridgewater as "an incredible football mind" who is all business all the time.
"He studies hours and hours all week," Rudolph said. "so that when he's out there Sunday and he sees something, he knows exactly what [to do] and he's calculating.
"He's not just out there flying by the seat of his pants," Rudolph added. "He puts us in the best situation to be successful."
Rudolph prides himself on being a well-rounded tight end. He contributed multi-dimensionally to the Vikings 11-5 record, NFC North championship and playoff appearance in 2015, finishing the season with 49 receptions for 495 yards and five touchdowns. After having a healthy offseason, he's geared up for an even higher level of production in 2016 – and he's looking forward to doing it in a new home.
"It's incredible – just the environment that we have here," Rudolph said after being inside U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time this week. "As we sit in it empty, you can only think about what this stadium is going to be like when it's full of 66,000 screaming Vikings fans. I can't wait for our first game [of the regular season] in here when the Packers come to town."
While he's counting down the days until the home opener, Rudolph is taking one step at a time and is excited to kick off his sixth Vikings training camp. He's made the most of his offseason – including multiple charity appearances and a surprise family announcement – but now it's all about football. And he's ready to roll.
"One week from today, we're down in Mankato," Rudolph said. "I'm looking forward to it – it's that time of year where all buzz is football. It's time to get back to work."