EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –When Kyle Rudolph injured his ankle at Carolina in Week 14, he had his sights set on the first weekend in January.
Rudolph did not miss a game but played a decreased number of snaps in the final three regular-season games.
"This was kind of our goal in mind – get to this week and get some time off," Rudolph said Wednesday. "Obviously I haven't been the player I'd like to be the last three weeks since the injury, so this is a big week for me to get healthy.
The tight end was a non-participant in the Vikings practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the team now has the remainder of the week off after securing a first-round bye in the playoffs.
"We only have three more games," Rudolph said in reference to the team's goal of winning the Super Bowl. "There's nothing that's going to keep me from being out there these last three weeks."
The tight end said that blocking has proven to be most difficult on an injured ankle, adding that the past two weeks were "a little more difficult" in the run game and that he hasn't been able to best-execute his technique as a blocker.
"I'm not a big enough, strong enough guy to just muscle people around," Rudolph said. "I've become a decent blocker because of my technique, and when I'm not able to execute that, it's difficult."
Rudolph commended fellow tight end David Morgan for stepping in and filling a number of roles over the past couple of games. In addition to substituting at long snapper when Kevin McDermott was injured at Green Bay, Morgan has been able to shoulder a larger responsibility in blocking and has contributed in the passing game.
"Dave is solid. He's a guy that has come a long way in his couple years here," Rudolph said. "He also has the benefit like myself of working with [tight ends coach] Clancy Barone, who's got an offensive line background. We try to learn as much from him as we can because he really does bring that dynamic of an offensive line coach into our run technique."
The Vikings are fresh off finishing 13-3, the second-most regular-season win in franchise history, and heading into the bye with renewed focus and motivation.
Rudolph said the team's success has helped him maintain a drive while fighting through an injury.
"It would have been a struggle had we not gotten this week off, and I knew that's the path we were kind of headed down," Rudolph said. "I did everything I could to kind of help will our guys to try and get to this week.
"Getting this week off is big for me and my health standpoint," Rudolph reiterated. "It's never going to be perfect throughout the course of the season – you're always battling, and it probably won't feel good until June or July – but it will be good enough to get a run in these playoffs.
Ramping up for a rematch
The Vikings may not yet know their opponent for the Jan. 14 Divisional round playoff game, but they do know one thing: it will be a team they've already played once this season.
Minnesota has faced each of the four NFC teams participating in this weekend's Wild Card matchups and defeated three of the four in their first go-round. If Rams (No. 3 seed) beat the Falcons (No. 6 seed), the Vikings and Rams will play a rematch of the Nov. 19 contest that the Vikings won 24-7.
If the Falcons win, the Vikings will play the winner of the Saints (No. 4 seed) versus Panthers (No. 5 seed) game slated for Sunday. Minnesota defeated the Saints in Week 1 and lost to the Panthers in Week 14.
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen told Twin Cities media members that he doesn't think "it's an advantage or disadvantage" to play a team for a second time in the season.
When asked specifically about difficult about beating one team in back-to-back meetings, Thielen said that it's "hard to beat a team regardless in the NFL."
"It doesn't matter if you play them once, twice, three times," Thielen said. "They had a lot of close games. In this league, it's tough to win at all. You've got to bring it each week and play your best football to win."
Thielen said teams often produce similar things to the first matchup, but there are also aspects that likely will be adjusted.
"You're going to have some other things, maybe out of different formations or completely switch it up," said Thielen, who added that it also depends how much time has passed between the two games.
"Sometimes, you play an opponent twice in four weeks. Then the game plan doesn't change a whole lot," Thielen said. "Depending on how things have gone over the course of a season, if you haven't played a team since Week 1, things could change a lot."
1 of Robison's 'K9s4COPS' helps capture suspect
Brian Robison is proud of his role in the Vikings No. 1 defense.
He's also, proud, however about his off-field work with his "Reel 'Em In Foundation." The nonprofit helps to raise money for K9s4COPS, an organization that provides law enforcement officials with canine partners.
Recently, one of the K9's provided by Robison helped capture the accused shooter of a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper. Trooper Damon Allen was fatally shot during a traffic stop on Thanksgiving Day.
Mark Wilson of the *Austin American-Statesman *published the story late last week. Wilson wrote that "Odin and his handler, Deputy Andrew Blauser, were thrown into a massive search" for the suspect and "when deputies found [Dabrett] Black in Waller County that evening, Odin ran him down."
Odin had only been with the sheriff's office for a couple of months.
Robison told Vikings.com on Wednesday that he's "very humbled" at the story and the way his foundation ultimately helped in the situation.
"Obviously we're saddened by the death of the [officer], but we're very humbled by it," Robison said. "That's what we want to do, is that we want to be able to impact the lives in a positive manner.
"And that's just one instance of where it worked out for us," Robison continued. "Take nothing away from all the guys who showed up, all the first responders – all those guys deserve credit. But we're very humbled that we were able to place that dog. We've had numerous dogs that we've been able to place that have done awesome things in the communities, and we're just so happy to be a part of it."