EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is incorporating more stretching this offseason to better prepare for the backstretch of the 2015 NFL calendar.
After playing in 31 games his first two seasons, including starting all 16 in 2012, making the Pro Bowl and earning MVP honors in the all-star game, Rudolph has missed 15 games in the past two seasons because of injuries. A foot injury ended his 2013 season at its midpoint, and last season, he suffered a sports hernia in Week 3 that required surgery and extensive rehab.
"A lot of it is bad luck, but at the same time, I like to think throughout the offseason we've had a great program in terms of becoming more durable," Rudolph said. "A lot of stretching and becoming more limber for when my body is put in those situations and I am tackled funny, there's a little more give. Hopefully I'll be more durable and be able to be out there for 16 games next year."
Rudolph grinded his way back into the lineup in Week 10 and posted season highs of seven catches for 69 yards at Detroit in Week 14, but an ankle injury sidelined him the following week.
Last month, Rudolph hosted teammates — Teddy Bridgewater, Jerick McKinnon, Charles Johnson and 2015 addition Brandon Bostick — in Southern California for two weeks of workouts and bonding sessions to "have fun, spend a little time away from here together, but also put in some work." Bridgewater and McKinnon said Rudolph set the bar high for hosts.
"Rudy, he's probably the best host on the team so far," Bridgewater said. "The hospitality was great, the training facility, the living arrangement, everything was top of the line. That just shows the type of guys that we have on this team and what they think of each other."
McKinnon, a third round pick a year ago, enjoyed staying with Rudolph and catching his first look at the Pacific Ocean.
"When I first pulled up, I was like, 'Dang, this is where I'm staying?' It had a nice view of the ocean and was definitely chill after a workout to relax," McKinnon said. "I've got to go back. It was my first time, and I fell in love with it, so I've got to go back next offseason."
McKinnon said the water wasn't too tempting. He does, however, expect a wavelike movement in applying lessons he learned from Rudolph, a second-rounder in 2011, during the visit.
"Rudy might say I was scared to get in the water, but I was really just tired," McKinnon said. "It was nice. I definitely would buy a house out there if I get enough money one day."
One lesson, Rudolph said this week, is trying to peak his conditioning closer to when the season starts instead of this time of year during the team's voluntary offseason workout program.
"I can go out here and run, but at the same time, I'm not peaking in the middle of April or in June when we're out there running around in shorts," Rudolph said. "This year, my main focus has been getting ready for August and September. We can say all we want in April, but the only way I'm going to get this behind me is by going out in September and playing until January."
LIKE A ROOKIE AGAIN?
The biggest outside acquisition the Vikings made during the offseason was acquiring veteran Mike Wallace and a seventh-round pick in a trade that sent a fifth-round pick to the Dolphins. He said he's felt welcomed by new teammates at the onset of his seventh pro season (four with Pittsburgh, two with Miami).
"Every time you go into a new spot, you kind of feel like a rookie again, standing around and watching other people and seeing how they work and move," Wallace said. "That's the toughest part, not knowing anybody. I knew a couple of guys, not too well, but it's a great group of guys, so it's not taking me long to learn them at all. Guys have been embracing me around here, and it's all positive.
The New Orleans native said he previously knew Phil Loadholt, Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn.
"I've known Captain since college, but this is way up north, man, not too many guys I knew are way up here, so I'm getting to know everybody," Wallace said. "It's been real positive. They've been talking to me and are excited to have me, and I'm excited to be here and have a fresh start."
Although the first two weeks of NFL voluntary workout programs only allow strength and conditioning staffs to work with players, Bridgewater said he foresees Wallace positively impacting Minnesota's offense.
"Everyone in the league knows Mike Wallace's history of being a big play guy on the football field," Bridgewater said. "We're excited to have him in this offense and expect it to be a big play offense. He's going to fit in well with the guys."
PATTERSON'S "NEW" OPPORTUNITY:
Conversely, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is looking to benefit from continuity of playing in the same offense for a second straight year. The 2013 first-rounder made an immediate impact as a rookie in multiple ways on offense and dynamically on special teams.
While Patterson ranked sixth in the NFL with a 25.6-yard average on kickoff returns in 2014, his offensive production dropped by 12 catches and 85 yards from his first season to his second. Patterson posted six catches for 86 yards in a win at Tampa Bay, but had eight catches for 85 yards in the final eight games.
"As the year was going on, I felt like my year was going down," Patterson said. "I just feel like it was getting worse for me. I felt like I was letting my whole team down and coaches. I have a lot to prove this year to everyone, the fans and everybody else. This year is going to make me or break me. I hope I step up this year and have a good role in this offense."
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner told "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen as a guest on the 9 to Noon show Monday on KFAN, that he's seen previous players hit a stride in year two of this system.
"It's a tough thing to talk about because, first of all, some of it comes down to the opportunities a player gets," Turner said. "Guys in this system can make a big jump from year one to year two, and that's what we're looking for Cordarrelle to do, and now it's up to him to put the work in, starting now. We start to get on the field (May 4) and start working on our routes, our combinations, those types of things, and we really get about two months in this time and come back for training camp."
Patterson said he's looking forward to "a new opportunity for me and all my teammates, to have a winning season and get on the right path and try to move forward."