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Rhodes, Brown to Reunite Sunday in Pittsburgh

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Xavier Rhodes won't be overwhelmed when he lines up against Antonio Brown on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

After all, the Vikings cornerback spent time covering the Steelers wide receiver when the teams squared off in London in 2013.

But the connection between the two runs even deeper than that. Rhodes has been tracking Brown for the better part of two decades.

Both Rhodes and Brown hail from the same part of Miami and attended Norland High School. Rhodes, who is two years younger than Brown, said there is a sense of pride and fulfillment when the two go head to head.

"It's more that we're happy to be going against each other," Rhodes said. "We're proud of each other for making it this far and achieving what we've achieved.

"When you're younger, you always have those moments when you want to be an NFL player," Rhodes later added. "To be able to line up against each other and be labeled as one of the best at each position, it's just a blessing. I can tell he and I are both thankful for it. We don't take anything lightly."

Rhodes said Wednesday that he and Brown have trained and hung out together in Florida at times during previous offseasons.

Brown is one of the game's most electrifying receivers. He has produced at least 1,000 receiving yards in five of the past seven seasons. The former Central Michigan standout had 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer knows Brown well from Zimmer's time in Cincinnati as the Bengals defensive coordinator.

"He's pretty much the same guy," Zimmer said. "He's amazing … gets open, finds ways to get open, tough, gets the ball in space, he's tough to tackle.

"He's a big play waiting to happen," Zimmer added.

Rhodes had his own superb season in 2016, leading the Vikings with five interceptions while being named to his first Pro Bowl.

The cornerback said he isn't going to change his approach when going up against his friend on Sunday.

"You just play your game," Rhodes said. "Whatever your game is, be comfortable with who you are on the field."

It remains to be seen if the Vikings will have Rhodes shadow Brown, a move they've executed against some other top receivers.

"I have no control over that," Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said during a conference call with Twin Cities media members. "Coach Zimmer and those guys do, so very rarely do I worry about things I have no control over. I'm sure they'll put somebody on him."

Rhodes also noted he doesn't expect there to be much trash talk during the game, especially because they have a healthy amount of respect for one another.

"He loves the game, loves playing the game and is always smiling," Rhodes said. "He goes out there to do what he does best — catch the ball and try to score touchdowns.

"We grew up in the same hometown, same neighborhood, went to the same school," Rhodes later added. "It's more going to be like a brotherly type thing."

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