EAGAN, Minn. — Kyle Rudolph said Wednesday after the Vikings second voluntary Organized Team Activity practice of the offseason that “there is some clarity” in contract talks between the team and his agent, Brian Murphy.
“The Vikings and my agent are working extremely hard to get something done, and with that being said, there are plenty of other teams that are interested, as well,” Rudolph said. “The clarity for me is that I get to come out every day and work with my teammates and have fun at OTAs and be in this team setting that I enjoy.”
The Vikings drafted Rudolph in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft and extended him on a five-year deal that is set to expire after the 2019 season, which will be his ninth in Minnesota.
When the Vikings drafted Irv Smith, Jr., in the second round last month, there was some speculation regarding Rudolph’s status. He addressed it last week before playing in the Mike Zimmer Golf Classic fundraiser for the Mike Zimmer Foundation and again Wednesday.
Rudolph made sure to board an early flight from New York to Minnesota Tuesday in order to attend the first OTA. Rudolph was honored at the Kelly Cares Foundation’s Irish Eyes Gala (created by Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly and his wife, Paqui) on Monday.
“I don’t know what kind of example it would set if I said I wanted to be here and I wasn’t here,” Rudolph said. “That’s not the kind of person I am. If I was at home right now, and everybody else was out here at practice, that would be really hard for me. That’s just not who I am as a person.”
When asked if there is validity to the report of a five-year extension, Rudolph simply said, “There is.”
Rudolph said he trusts the work by Vikings Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski and Murphy.
“They’re working. [The Vikings] are in a tough [salary-cap] situation. Everybody knows that,” Rudolph said. “That’s why we have the best salary cap in the NFL, and I believe I have one of the best agents. They’re working really hard.”
When Zimmer was asked if he is optimistic that the situation will be resolved, Zimmer said, “Yes.”
Asked to elaborate why he believes so, Zimmer said, “Because both sides are working towards it. And he’s under contract.”
Players have discussed excitement for the possibility of Rudolph and Smith not only being on the same team but on the field at the same time if the Vikings use more two-tight end sets this season.
“It forces defenses to play with three linebackers, and that allows us to control the game,” Rudolph said. “When we go out there in three-wide sets and people talk about creating mismatches, well, now they have five DBs on the field. There are still mismatches, size mismatches, but you can kind of control and do things how we want to do them.”
Quarterback Kirk Cousins also was asked about the prospect.
“I think it’s a win for us. I think that Kyle has done so many good things for so long, so to have him out there is a great sense of comfort,” Cousins said. “When you add Irv’s youth and athleticism, that is a great plus. No matter how you cut it, you have five players that are eligible [to receive a pass].
“You want to get the best five and the right mix and the right match,” Cousins continued. “You just try to get the best players you can out there, whether it is receivers, tight ends, running backs. But do something that is going to put pressure on the defense. And I do think having Kyle and Irv out there as a combination should be able to do that.”
Rhodes respects Zimmer expecting “greatness out of us”
Xavier Rhodes garnered two separate All-Pro selections after his performance in 2017, but the 2018 season didn’t earn the same recognition.
Instead, a down year brought forth Zimmer saying at the Annual League Meeting that Rhodes “needs to play better” because of the importance of cornerbacks in the Vikings defensive scheme.
Rhodes said he and Zimmer talked about the comments, and he understands his coach’s point.
“We had a bad year for our team. Everybody was messing up, so we all need to come together as a team and correct our mistakes,” Rhodes said. “I was one of those guys, being a leader on the team, not making as many plays as I did in previous years, so there were mistakes I need to work on and plays I feel like I could have come out on top.”
Asked if Zimmer was pressing buttons with the comment, Rhodes said, “He has his ways of doing things and how he wants to handle things.”
“We all know how Coach works. You all know how Coach works,” Rhodes said. “We appreciate him being hard on us, being tough on us and wanting greatness out of us.”
Rhodes dealt with some nagging injuries but also said he took some chances on plays that he shouldn’t have and “was doing things out of character.”
Zimmer confirmed that Linval Joseph is still recovering from offseason surgery.
The Pro Bowl defensive tackle is therefore spending much of his energy this spring by doling out coaching points.
“We had a good draft this year and feel good. D-linemen, o-linemen, we’re just trying to get everybody in the best situation, the best position as possible,” Joseph said. “My job right now is to make sure that I get every guy an equal opportunity to learn this game and coach them.”
Joseph also was asked about Pat Elflein shifting from center, where he has played the past two seasons to left guard. Joseph said he thinks the move, which would allow first-round pick Garrett Bradbury to play center, could help the Vikings in multiple ways.
“What’s going to make him great, he has the attitude,” Joseph said of Elflein transitioning. “He has the want-to. Every day, he’s going to go out there and give you his best effort. He’s faster than most offensive linemen, he’s smarter than most offensive linemen, so now he’s just going to have to get savvy and use that to his advantage.”