Rudolph still targeting return in Chicago

TE Kyle Rudolph is getting more involved in practice and still targeting a Nov. 16 return.

Kyle Rudolph returned to practice on a limited basis on Tuesday for the first time since his surgery in September to repair a sports hernia. Rudolph has not seen the field since the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 3 matchup in New Orleans against the Saints. He is, however, hopeful to be playing again in their Week 11 game in Chicago.

The game in Chicago has always been Rudolph’s goal since he got his surgery, primarily because it falls right after the Vikings’ bye week. The team is still taking it slow with their Pro Bowl tight end, though, as they do not want to cause any setbacks and have to wait even longer for his return.

Along with the possibility of setbacks, Rudolph is still taking it slow because he is not yet able to perform at an in-game level, and that’s what he wants to be able to do.

“The biggest thing for me is just playing at a high level,” Rudolph said. “It would be dumb for me to go out there, like if we had a game today, to go out there and play the way that I am. I wouldn’t say I’m limited in anything. I can go do everything, but I can’t do it at a high level so it doesn’t make sense for me to go out there and, not only put myself at risk but hurt the team because I’m not performing the way I should be.”

Although he feels he can do everything at this point, Rudolph still did not participate in team activities. He stayed with participating in the individual drills, but it was the first time at practice he did more than just running or stretching.

The fact that he is able to do that much without pain is a good sign for Vikings fans that he is still on pace to return for their next game.

“These last couple weeks have been big for me to kind of get over (the pain),” said Rudolph. “When I first started running I was pretty stiff and had a little bit of pain. So, like I said, I’m out there doing everything pretty normally. I just can’t really do it at a high level quite yet.”

Even though he is not where he wants to be yet, his presence on the field during individual drills is an encouraging sign.

“It’s good to be back out there running around a little bit,” he said. “Finally get involved a little bit, not be on the side. It felt good.”

The decision for his return will ultimately come down to head coach Mike Zimmer and the advice of head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, and with Chase Ford and Rhett Ellison playing as well as they have, the Vikings can afford to be cautious in bringing Rudolph back.

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