Vikings Tight End Kyle Rudolph
Q: What are your thoughts on Randy Moss and Ahmad Rashad being here today?
A: It is awesome. One of the things that coach Zimmer did when we got here, is always bringing back alumni players, bringing back former great Vikings, and those are two of the best that have played for this organization. Tomorrow we have the alumni barbeque after practice. We would not be where we are today as players and have all the things that we have without those guys so it is good to have them around and good to talk to them, pick their brains. They were great players for a reason.
Q: After this week, the next time you will be together will be at training camp. Will you be taking last season's lessons to this coming season?
A: Absolutely. We cannot just put last season to bed. We have to learn from it and I think that is one of the strides that we have made since we got back here in April. Putting ourselves into situations, knowing things differently to execute, and you know, we had four or five ball games that if we could have gotten to fall the other way, we are looking at twelve to thirteen wins and a first round bye, so that is how close this league is. One of the things coach Zimmer constantly does through practice and one of his big sayings is, "You have got to learn how to play the game." We can go out and run plays and that is great, but if you do not know how those plays fit into situations, one play here and there could cost us a game, and it did last year.
Q: Is it easy this time of year to spot improvements in critical situations or spots on the field?
A: Now is the time. I mentioned this earlier in the offseason when we all met, but the luck of everything, the ball bouncing our way in September, October, November, December is made right now. We put ourselves in situations and we were able to rely on our technique and fundamentals and when that play comes up during the season, we have already been there a few times. We know what we have to do and we just go out there and let our abilities take over. We drill these things so many times throughout the offseason that you do see improvements and you do see where we still have room to grow as well.
Q: What have your impressions been in the last six to seven weeks of Teddy Bridgewater and how he is handling his injury?
A: He never ceases to amaze me with his attitude and his mindset that he has had throughout this whole process. I have been around this game for a long time, and I do not think I have ever seen as devastating of an injury as that and when you have a road as long as he does ahead of him, it is hard to lose sight of having that positive mindset each and every day because you are never going to see a huge jump. It is a little bit each and every day, and yet he seems to be one of the most positive and energetic guys, whether it is around the locker room, out here as an individual, at practice walking up and down, keeping everybody involved. That is why everybody loves him, and that is something that makes him such a special kid.
Q: As a player, do you come into this type of situation expecting anything? Is it hard to tell where Teddy is at with everything?
A: I am not a doctor so I have no idea what to expect for him in the future. I know he is in great hands. We have the best medical staff. I know when you have an attitude and a mindset like Teddy has, you can overcome just about anything, and I just imagine him keeping that same determination day-in and day-out and he is going to like where he ends up.
Q: How comfortable do you think Sam Bradford is coming into his second season with the Vikings and having an offseason?
A: I definitely think that there was not only a higher comfort level with the offense, but a higher comfort level with us as players. Amongst the tight ends, the receiver room, we have played fifteen games together and now we have had almost a whole offseason program together so we are starting to get to that point where you put in all these extra reps and you start to see that paying off in team period.
Q: What are some different things you have seen with the offense, now that Pat Shurmur has had a whole offseason to develop his own scheme?
A: I think one of the things that Pat Shurmur does well, and is what we have kind of got to as he took over last year, was recognizing what we do well and trying to make things simpler for us, yet more complex to the defense. If we can do things that we do well, let's just do those things more often, and I think that is one of the things that we got to last year and we were able to see our offense kind of kicking up strides there to the end and culminating that last game against the Bears.
Q: There is a lot of talk about the short passing game, so is that something you are trying to stretch out a little bit this year?
A: Yes, absolutely. We have to hit shots down field. I know yesterday we had maybe three or four opportunities. We had a couple of pass interferences. We hit one and missed a couple. Those are plays that we have to hit in order for us to be able to do everything that we want as an offense. Making plays down the field is definitely part of it.
Q: Since you are one of the more experienced offensive players, is there any messages you would like to say to some of the newer, younger faces around here?
A: The biggest thing, and coach Zimmer just touched on it as we broke as a team, you spend nine weeks developing technique and developing habits. Make sure you stay on those and do not let those sneak away. You continue to get better and you climb. Coach Barone, in our O-room, drew a stock market (chart), and you make some progress and you go down, but you are constantly climbing and now we take five weeks off. Let's make sure we come back and not have a huge drop. It is always important to enjoy your time away. This is our last break before hopefully we are at it for the next seven months, but make sure you stay on top of it, whether it is every couple days making sure you are staying on your football, making sure you are staying in your playbook, but at the same time, enjoy your summer, be smart, and be ready to work.
Vikings Defensive End Brian Robison
Q: Are you going to join Randy Moss and Ahmad Rashad someday in the Ring of Honor?
A: That sure would be nice. I think that is a goal we all look for, but we will see.
Q: What was it like hearing Randy Moss and Ahmad Rashad talk?
A: Anytime you can hear these greats come back talk and the emotions that they had when they played the game, you try to learn from that. You try to learn from what they did on a daily basis that made them so great so you can apply it to what you do on a daily basis.
Q: Seeing these guys together and coming back to the team so many years later, does that a big influence on you?
A: Absolutely and you start to realize the importance of these offseason workouts and how important they are to not only make your team better, but for the guys to get to know each other, to build that camaraderie, that competition. As far as our D-line room, that is what fuels our defense so much is that we compete day-in and day-out, with each other, with our offense and I think that helps you in the long run, but definitely as you get older, you start to realize that every team is different every year. You cannot live on what you did last year. You cannot expect things to just pick up the way they left off last year. Every year you have to build a new foundation.
Q: Ahmad Rashad just talked about the hidden beauty of a training camp. The first couple of days can be hard to get in the groove, but by the end of it, the bond that is built between guys, help you leave with a better feeling with where the team is at?
A: Yes, absolutely. Even for those guys, it was much more of a grueling process that it is nowadays. I mean even when I came into the league, we had legit two-a-days. Now you do not have that anymore. In some ways it is easier. I think it is more of a mental grind than it is a physical grind than it used to be. I do not know if there is as much beauty, as you put it, but at the end of the day it is. It is something where you cannot really explain it, but going through that process, picking each other up. Even when the next guy is not feeling so great, you pick him up make sure that you keep him going and vise-versa. There is going to be times out there where you are not always going to feel good, but the guys around you are what keep you going and keep you motivated.
Q: As you approach training camp, what is different about this team's mindset than last year?
A: I think for us, we have been a situation where we were (11-5) and then you come back and turn around and you would be (8-8). We ran into a lot of stuff last year with injuries and things like that, but there is no excuse. There were games that we should have won down the stretch. We understand that in order to be successful in this league, you have to work hard day-in and day-out. It really started back in April for us in the weight room, and I think in training camp, this is just going to continue. You are working hard every single day out here. Offense is tremendously getting better, in my opinion, so I think for us when we go into training camp, we put the pads on, I think that is when the competition really ramps up and you get more of and idea of what type of team you are going to be.
Q: Danielle Hunter was saying that last year, he was watching what you did to stay so long. To have a young and talented kid wanting to do not only the technique, but do things that you do, what does that mean to you?
A: It means a lot to me. I have always prided on myself as far as doing the little things right, always trying to go out and better myself, make sure I am taking the right steps, make sure I am in the right place all of the time. I have always been a guy, obviously everyone knows I am a vocal guy, but I always try to be a guy that leads by example by doing things right. When you have a guy like Danielle and obviously is on track to have probably what these guys have had, being in the Ring of Honor one day, and hopefully he can stay healthy and do the things he needs to do because he has a bright future, but to have a guy like that, that looks up to you and has told me many times that he really wants to emulate some of stuff that I do, it means a lot.
Q: What kind of strides in the classroom has he made from year one, to year two, to now year three?
A: I think he is understanding the game a little more. When he first came in here, he was kind of a raw talent. It was one of those deals where you knew he had a lot of potential, it was just going to be how quick he could grasp the game, but he is a smart kid. He takes notes everyday. He goes in there and you can definitely tell he is applying it on the field. He is understanding situations, understanding different formations that the offense is throwing at him, and he being able to recognize those things faster, so I think it is going to be only good for our team that he can understand that stuff.
Q: When they came to you with your restructured contract, was it important for you to get the second year added on?
A: Yes it was important to me, definitely. This is a place I want to be. I have spent my whole career here, and I definitely want to end my career here, and so it was important for me to get that second year. I think I have said it time after time again, I think it is a rare opportunity that you see a player be loyal to an organization and vise-versa, the organization be loyal to a player. Nothing is guaranteed in this league, but at the end of the day, I got the second year and hopefully that gives me options to be able to finish out my career here in Minnesota.
Q: Coach Zimmer said that the defense has been impressed with David Morgan's blocking ability. I was talking to David today, and he said that the defense has made him a better blocker. What have you seen from him?
A: I think he has really taken the steps he has needed to take in the offseason in order to be what we need him to be, and at the end of the day, David is probably one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL, and not a lot of people have seen that yet, but I think you are going to see that this year. He is going to be a very important part of our offense being able to run the ball because of what he can do at tight end as far as blocking defensive ends. It is not an easy task for him. He has got to go against Everson Griffen. He has got to go against Danielle Hunter. He has got to go against myself. He has got some guys in our room that can actually play the run pretty well. I think for him, it has helped him become a better blocker, but at the same time, I think he is going to be a very important role in order for us to be successful on that side of the ball.
Q: How do you like what you've seen from the new offensive line guys like Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers?
A: Well, I like their attitude. At the end of the day, they're guys that are going to fight, claw, scratch, and do whatever they've got to do. They may get beat, but they're going to get in a shove in, they're going to do something. They've got an attitude about them. That's what you've got to love about an offensive lineman. They're not going to be the most athletic guys, they're not going to be the greatest athletes in the world or anything like that but at the end of the day, you want to see a guy fight, claw, scratch and do whatever he's got to do in order to keep his quarterback clean or keep the running back in the gap he's supposed to be in. That's what those guys bring to the table.
Q: Did you watch Randy Moss or Ahmad Rashad growing up? Any memories as a kid watching them?
A: See, a lot of people don't know that I was kind of, in a way, a closet Vikings fan. So, I grew up a Cowboys fan but my second favorite team actually growing up was the Vikings. I used to watch John Randle and [Chris] Doleman, all those guys when they were playing here. Definitely watched Cris Carter and Randy Moss, Daunte [Culpepper] and all those guys when they were here. Yeah, I kind of grew up watching them a little bit.
Q: Anything you took from their message to the team?
A: I think what I took to heart was what Randy said at the end of the practice. I've always lived by the motto that, in order to be the best you have to work harder than the rest. He broke us down today and said, "You have to work harder than anybody, you have to take advantage of every opportunity that you get on the field." That rings true for me. Here's some of the greats that kind of have the same motto that you have. Obviously, that's pretty cool to have.