Kyle Rudolph felt he had enough time before his pro day to get his hamstring back to 100 percent and show NFL coaches and scouts his draft value, but there were still questions about its condition before the April draft.
When the first round of the draft came and went, the Notre Dame tight end was still available and the Vikings wasted no time making him their second-round pick at No. 43, saying afterwards that he had a clean bill of health from the Vikings' doctors. But last week while working out at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., Rudolph added another level to his recovery – he is feeling "elite" again.
"For me, the biggest thing was just getting back to where I was before the injury. The healing process and then into the rehab process, all that stuff went well and I was able to go out on my pro day and show people I'm healthy," Rudolph said. "But then these last couple of months of building on that and getting back to the elite level I was at before I got [hurt], that's been the hardest thing. Now I'm back running around and I don't feel it at all. Now, I've taken care of it more than I used to. I'm definitely more conscious about my legs and muscles and soft tissue. But that's just a lesson I learned throughout the process."
While Rudolph suffered a pulled hamstring in August, he fought through the injury to start the 2010 season, but in early October he suffered further damage to the hamstring that required him to miss the final seven games of the season after having surgery. Rudolph said he tore two of the three tendons that attach the hamstring to the bone – one tear was two centimeters from the bone and the other was three centimeters away.
While it was a season-ending injury (and as it turns out, the end of his college career), it has taught him to take better care of himself and maybe even educate other players he was working out with last week in Florida.
"You're down here with other guys and they're talking about some of the soft tissue stuff that we do and how it's kind of annoying … monotonous and boring," Rudolph said. "But for a guy like me, I say you guys don't understand until you have something that you need to take care of with your body and the soft tissue and the muscles because that's what makes the money for us is your legs. If you don't have your legs, you don't have anything."
Before the injury, Rudolph started 28 of 29 games for the Irish, becoming the first freshman to start every game in his first season. In less than three seasons, he caught 90 passes for 1,032 yards, ranking fourth on the school's list in both categories.
What Rudolph has now is an opportunity to forge a bond with first-round quarterback Christian Ponder. They have gotten to know each other throughout the predraft process. They were at the NFL Scouting Combine together and further established a relationship at the Rookie Premiere. Their work in Florida together last week gave them more of an opportunity to develop an on-field chemistry, and Rudolph is confident he's back to his "elite" level now.
"Definitely. I feel very comfortable with where I'm at right now and I'm only going to continue to build on that the next couple months," he said.
After working out at IMG last week, Rudolph was heading home to the Cincinnati area for a week or two before a possible trip to Minnesota, he said.
"For me, we're just really training and pushing to get in shape. For me, it's getting my legs fresh and ready for that 16-, 20-week season that we'll have throughout the course of the next five months," he said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Rudolph says he's back to ‘elite' level
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