Kyle Rudolph is only 24 years old, but he knows full well how much success tight ends have had under 62-year-old Norv Turner.
“I’ve followed football for a long time, and I had an opportunity to study Antonio Gates a lot,” the Minnesota Vikings tight end said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “When we hired Norv (to be our offensive coordinator this year), I was able to get access to their old cut-ups, so I got an opportunity to watch a bunch of those guys play. It’s one thing to study their game, but it’s one thing to watch their tapes when you actually know what they’re doing.”
“Norv does such a great job, and it’s not just tight ends,” Rudolph continued. “You go back and look over the last 20 years, the success that he’s head with wide receivers, with quarterbacks, with running backs – he just has such a unique feel throughout the course of a game to get the ball in guys’ hands to give them opportunities to make plays.”
Rudolph has made a whole bunch of those throughout his career. In fact, he has 12 touchdowns catches in his last 24 games. The Vikings rewarded the Notre Dame product this offseason with a five-year extension worth up to $40 million, including $19.4 million guaranteed.
“Well, first of all, I appreciate it,” Rudolph said of the extension. “I can’t thank the Wilf family and the Vikings organization enough for having the trust in me to give me the opportunity to sign my extension a year early. I’m just thrilled to be here for the next six years. I love the direction that this organization is going in with the new coaching staff. I feel like we have a lot of good young playmakers on our roster, and then we got a new stadium coming in two years and the Super Bowl two years after that. So it’s a really exciting time to be here in Minnesota, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
The Vikings will play the 2014 and 2015 seasons outdoors while their new stadium is being built. Games will be played at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.
Rudolph anticipates a smooth transition.
“We had our first padded practice on Sunday, it rained the majority of the practice and there was no way we were going inside,” Rudolph said. “Coach (Mike) Zimmer just kind of laughed at us and said, ‘Well, we’re playing outside this year, guys, so you better just get used to it. That was kind of the first time we’ve had inclement weather at a practice so far this year.”
“It’s going to be a lot of fun playing outside, especially in August, September and October,” Rudolph continued. “And then the weather up here in Minneapolis is different than anywhere else in the country. They got the new turf, so the surface should be very playable. As a player, the air temperature doesn’t bother me too much.”
Indeed, far more interesting than the weather will be the Vikings’ quarterback depth chart. They have a pair of veterans in Matt Cassel, 32, and Christian Ponder, 26, and also a first-round draft pick in Teddy Bridgewater, 21.
“I feel like there’s three guys that are very capable,” Rudolph said.
Regardless of who lines up under center, you can expect – in the words of Adrian Peterson – a more diverse, less predictable offense under Turner.
“I feel like anyone who watched our games (last year knows) we were completely reliant upon Adrian Peterson,” Rudolph said. “Adrian is a phenomenal football player – the best running back in our game, if not one of the best of all time. I feel like what Adrian is saying there is, ‘You’re not going to be able to just key on me anymore.’ We have a ton of playmakers in this locker room on the offensive side of the ball, and as I mentioned before, Norv has such a great feel (for what to do) and throughout the course of the game is going to get the ball into the hands of everybody on that side of the ball. So we’re really excited to come out with a little more balanced attack this year.”