His last two seasons have been especially bad. Rudolph missed eight games in 2013 because of a fractured foot and missed seven games in 2014 because of a sports hernia and an injured groin.
He wants to be able to put all of that behind him, though, and be there for the entire season in 2015.
“It was a good offseason for me and that’s – if you’ve read anything that’s been written so far this offseason – it’s all about my health. And that’s my biggest goal this offseason is becoming more durable. Being able to be there 16 times next year, that’s pretty much my main goal this offseason.”
The question then becomes this: What can a player do in order to become more durable? Some players seem to just hold up better over the NFL season than others do. Rudolph thinks he might have an idea how he can improve his durability and that is by becoming more flexible.
A lot of injuries will occur when a player gets wrapped up and tackled in an awkward way. So Rudolph hopes that by becoming more flexible his body will be able to better handle those situations.
“A lot stretching,” Rudolph said. “Just becoming more limber so that when my body is put in those situations, I am tackled funny, there’s a little bit more give so hopefully I’ll be more durable and be out there for 16 games next year.”
Up to this point in his career, Rudolph has always begun the team’s voluntary workouts in peak shape, but then he has noticed he has worn down as the season moved along. So this offseason he has taken a little bit of a different approach.
The tight end says that he is still in great shape but he wants to try and get into tip-top shape in August or September instead of in April. That way he feels as though he will be more prepared for the regular season and be more apt to play in all 16 games.
“I think this is the first time in my career I haven’t felt like I’ve come back in April in the best shape,” Rudolph said. “I’m in great shape, I can go out there and run, but at the same time I’m not peaking in the middle of April or in June when we’re out there running around in shorts. You look great running around, but then halfway through the year you’re on the decline. This year my main focus is getting ready for August and September. We can say all we want right in April, but the only way I’m going to put this behind me is going out there in September and playing until January.”
The Vikings don’t have a lot of proven red zone threats outside of Rudolph, which means he plays an important role when on the field. At 6-foot-6, he is the same height as some of the other tight ends and four inches taller than the Vikings’ tallest receiver. When you add his athleticism into the mix, he becomes a potent weapon for young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
If Rudolph is able to stay healthy over the course of the season, this should be the best season of his career, especially with a quarterback who has shown he has the ability to play at a high level.