Rudolph missed six games because of sports hernia surgery in September and, although he has been back for four games now, he still isn’t at full strength and might not be until next year, offensive coordinator Norv Turner said.
“I don’t think he’ll be all the way back until we get into camp next year,” Turner said Thursday. “When you have that type of procedure, I think it takes a while to recover. I think he’s working hard at it and he’s a competitive guy, but he doesn’t have the same quickness and burst when we broke camp. Like I say, when you have the procedure, it takes a while to get it. He’s doing a nice job playing at less than 100 percent.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer agreed that Rudolph isn’t back to full strength.
In his first game back, Nov. 11 against the Chicago Bears, Rudolph didn’t have any catches. In the last three games combined, he has nine catches for 66 yards.
“I think it’s that explosiveness, the quickness, the things that we got so excited about when we got going in training camp (that he’s missing),” Turner said.
In the two games before Rudolph’s return, his replacement, Chase Ford, had 11 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. Since Rudolph returned, Ford has only caught two passes for 17 yards and hasn’t caught a pass in the last three games he was active.
Turner said he would like to get Ford more involved.
“He’s a good receiver and he did some good things. I don’t know, we’ve got some things where he’s going to be involved, hopefully we can get to him,” Turner said. “We’ve had things each week where he’s involved and sometimes you’re able to get to him and sometimes you aren’t.”
Zimmer said getting Ford involved in the game depends on several factors.
“It’s kind of the same thing with the running backs. You get going in a certain way. You get going no-huddle and certain guys are out there and you don’t change it up much,” Zimmer said. “Unless you specifically say, hey, this series. Honestly, sometimes Norv calls the play and he just may say a general personnel group and then the position coach can’t get him in the game fast enough.”
KEY STARTERS REMAIN OUTS Robert Blanton (ankle/knee), G Charlie Johnson (ankle), DT Sharrif Floyd (knee) and LB Anthony Barr (knee) didn't practice Thursday for the second straight day.
“Some guys are always ahead of others, but it will come down to the end,” Zimmer said of their availability Thursday.
FB Jerome Felton (neck) and DE Everson Griffen (low back) were limited. S Harrison Smith (shoulder) returned to full participation.
In Detroit, DT Ndamukong Suh didn’t practice because of illness. WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) was upgraded to a full participant after being limited Wednesday, and RB Reggie Bush (ankle) was upgraded to a limited participant after being out Wednesday.
DT Nick Fairley (knee) and LB Josh Bynes (illness) didn’t practice for the second straight day, and CB Darius Slay (shoulder) and LB Tahir Whitehead (shoulder) remained limited.
YOUNG DRAFT PICKS STILL DEVELOPINGThird-round draft pick Scott Crichton has been active for five games and inactive for eight, but last week DE Justin Trattou, who was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, was active in front of Crichton.
“These defensive linemen sometimes take a little bit longer (to develop). We’re not disappointed in him. He’s close but he’s not quite there yet,” Zimmer said.
“He’s got a great attitude. He’s a guy that gives you great effort every day and tries to get better and I think he will.”
Fifth-round pick David Yankey, a guard, hasn’t been active yet, despite the injury troubles on the offensive line. Zimmer said Yankey has “a ways to go,” mentioning his balance and strength as needing improvement.
RUN DEFENSE STILL INCONSISTENTIn back-to-back weeks, the Vikings have given up 178 yards and 168 yards on the ground, their two highest totals of the season.
“We’re not doing enough things good in the run defense. We’re playing blocks and we’re in the right place, but we’re not getting off of blocks,” Zimmer said. “We’re not getting enough hats on the ball. We’ve got way too many guys where way too many times one guy is making the tackle, which should not be the case.”
The Vikings have faced two pretty good rushing offenses. The New York Jets are ranked second in rushing offense and the Carolina Panthers are 11th.
“Those two teams, they keep you a little bit unsure because of the quarterback runs and all the stuff that they do. So you can’t be as fast-flowing and aggressive as normally,” Zimmer said. “Hopefully that had a little bit to do with it.”
The Vikings are now ranked 23rd against the run.