Rudolph healed from foot injury, seeks Vikings contract extension
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Kyle Rudolph spent much of his offseason in California, far away from the endless winter in Minnesota and in a position where he could rehabilitate his injured foot.
Waiting on his foot to heal was tough for Rudolph, who wanted to be ready for the Vikings’ offseason program. Waiting for a contract extension is proving difficult, too.
Rudolph is fully healed after a broken foot ended his season on Nov. 3. The fourth-year tight end finished with 30 catches for 313 yards and three touchdowns last season in what he was hoping was another big year after winning the Pro Bowl MVP award following the 2012 season.
Instead, Rudolph’s production fluctuated as the team’s quarterback situation transformed. He enters the final season of his rookie contract, hoping he has a long future in Minnesota.
"That’s completely up to them," Rudolph said Tuesday during the team’s workouts when asked if he’s hoping an extension will be reached before the season. "Obviously, I would love to be here for a while, but that’s something you’d have to ask them. It’s all on their terms, obviously."
Rudolph, a second-round draft pick in 2011, will make $1.47 million in 2013, the final year of his rookie contract. Rudolph and guard Brandon Fusco — a sixth-round pick in 2011 — are the two most likely candidates for an extension.
Fusco is also entering the final season of his rookie deal. The Vikings currently have $10.93 million in salary cap space for 2014.
Rudolph said there have been no talks with Minnesota regarding a contract extension.
"No, they have not, and yes, I would like to stick around after this season," Rudolph said. "I’ve really enjoyed my time here, from the top down, in our organization. I think we have the best owners in football. They’re willing to do anything for us to win. Everybody in the front office, the new staff, I really like the direction this team is going in. I’m excited to be a part of that future."
Rudolph heads into the immediate future finally healed from the foot injury he suffered in Week 9 at Dallas. He was expected to miss four to six weeks, but ended up being put on injured reserve and missing the rest of the season. With the offseason, he was able to give his foot extra time to heal.
"It was really difficult to kind of just hang out there in late January and early February," Rudolph said of letting his foot heal. "Once I was able to start running around in mid-February, it felt good to just go out there, the first time you put your foot in the ground, there’s no residuals from it."
Captain needs a coat: Free-agent acquisition Captain Munnerlyn is participating in the Vikings’ voluntary workouts in Minnesota and he was taken by surprise by the cool weather that re-entered the area this week.
"I woke up this morning, man, it’s April and it’s feeling like this?," said Munnerlyn, who is from Alabama and has played the last five years in Carolina. "It’s going to be an adjustment for me, but I’m excited about the adjustment. Like Mr. Spielman said, he paid me enough to buy some good jackets, so I guess I gotta stay warm."
Munnerlyn has been compared to former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield a lot since signing in March, and the similarities exist well beyond their size and game. Munnerlyn was engaging and displayed a similar big smile as Winfield in his first live exposure to Minnesota media on Tuesday.
Munnerlyn said the defense being installed by new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is also similar to what he played in Carolina.
"Oh yeah. It’s almost like the same defense," Munnerlyn said. "Different tweaks here and there, different terminology but it’s almost the same defense. It’s going to be a very physical defense. They’re going to have a very good defensive line. Just let those guys hunt and we come up from the back end and make plays."
Munnerlyn feels he can make a big contribution for the Vikings, giving himself a very apt nickname.
"I can make a whole lot of plays," Munnerlyn said. "That’s my nickname for myself: I always call myself the ‘big difference.’ When I’m on the field, I’m the big difference. I can make a whole lot of plays in this defense. Start outside and then slide in to play the nickel back. That’s what I’m going to do. Start outside and slide into the nickel back. Make plays. Bring the physical toughness to this secondary and go out there and get my hands on some balls and take them to the house."
Munnerlyn’s adjustment is smoother by having his former college roommate, Jasper Brinkley, on the team. Brinkley returned to the Vikings after one season in Arizona.
"We’ve been through a lot together — sweat, blood, tears, injuries," Brinkley said. "We’ve been through a whole lot together, so it’s like having one of your brothers with you."
Big participation in workouts: Minnesota has seen strong participation in the first two weeks of its offseason conditioning program. New strength coach Evan Marcus said "almost everybody" is in town participating in the workouts, with the program changing under Marcus’ guidance.
Running back Adrian Peterson, still rehabbing from earlier groin surgery, isn’t in town, but Marcus has been pleased with the response.
"Everybody’s been really positive from the get-go," Marcus said. "We had guys coming around just introducing themselves before we got started. We had sent them a letter telling them what to expect from us."
Everson Griffen, signed to a five-year, $42.5 million contract in March, is one player looking to make the most of the conditioning program and change his body composition.
"Yeah, you know, I’m going to come in leaner," Griffen said. "I’m going to come in stronger. I’m going to come in smarter. I’m just here to work with my teammates, man. We’re trying to start something special here. We’ve got a group of young guys, and we’re ready to go. We’ve just got to get in the playbook and learn the plays and get acclimated to the system."
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