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Rhodes returns to Vikings practice; Rudolph, Reiff remain sidelined

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes returned to practice Thursday, a good sign the Vikings injured defender can play Sunday against the Bengals.

Rhodes injured his hip during last week’s loss in Carolina and was held out of Wednesday’s practice. He was limited Thursday.

Still sidelined were tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle), left tackle Riley Reiff (ankle), cornerback Mackensie Alexander (chest) and tight end Blake Bell (shoudler).

The Vikings may lean on swing tackle Rashod Hill for a sixth straight week, this time at left tackle where Reiff was injured in Carolina. Center Pat Elflein (shoulder) and right tackle Mike Remmers (low back) have been limited in practice this week.

Minnesota has been down to two tight ends at practice this week, including David Morgan who was still in the concussion protocol as of Wednesday. He was a full participant Thursday, meaning he could soon clear the protocol.

Morgan and Kyle Carter, who could be elevated from the practice squad, were again the only tight ends at practice Thursday.

So the Vikings brought in two free agents for a workout this week: Sam Cotton (6-4, 250 pounds) went undrafted out of Nebraska and Steve Donatell (6-6, 241 pounds) was undrafted from Western Kentucky. Cotton was initially signed by the Patritos; Donatell by the Seahawks.

Randle: Loss to Carolina will turn into good thing for Vikings

John Randle, one of the NFL’s classic rags-to-riches stories, knows a thing or two about perseverance. So it’s no surprise that this Vikings Hall of Famer thinks last week’s loss at Carolina will end up being a good thing for this year’s team.

“I think this one loss right here could really be that one loss that gets them even more focused,” Randle said. “Sometimes, you have to taste defeat and realize what it tastes like. I think guys will remember this loss 10 years from now, 20 years from now.

“I think it’s going to be, ‘Remember, we were on that long winning streak. And then we played Carolina in Carolina. We started off slow. We weren’t catching the passes we were supposed to be catching. We weren’t in the right gaps.’ A game like this, you correct those small things and get back on the train. A loss like this gets you back on the straight and narrow. Guys were enjoying it too much, paying too much attention to everybody telling them they were going to be the first team to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium. Sometimes you can get ahead of yourself.”

There’s only one way a loss like this would be remembered 20 years from now. And that’s if this year’s team goes on to win the Super Bowl.

Right, John?

“If they can stay healthy and focused,” Randle said, “then big accomplishments definitely will come.”

NFL Films captured Randle’s life story for the 100th episode of the popular one-hour documentaries called “A Football Life.” It’s first showing will be on the NFL Network at 8 p.m. CT Friday.

Randle grew up   in abject poverty in Mumford, Texas, a 176-person speck of a town near the Brazos River. He was the youngest of three boys raised by Martha, a single mother, in a small, white three-room house sitting up on cinder blocks about 200 yards off the highway.

It had no indoor plumbing, a tin roof, no insulation and a kitchen so small that Randle could extend his arms and touch the walls on both  sides.

“The house was torn down years ago, but the people at NFL Films built a replica on the set in Philadelphia, and had me come see it,” Randle said. “It was unbelievable how realistic it was to what I grew up in. Right down to the wash tub hanging on the nail, the little black and white television we had, the pictures we had on the wall to the back door looking out into the nice sunset.”

Randle went from being an undrafted Division II player at Texas A&I to the league’s highest-paid defender to the record-holder for sacks by a defensive tackle (137 1/2) to Pro Football Hall of Famer in 2010.

He lives in the Twin Cities, plays a whole lot of golf and follows his old team closely.

“The thing I like is you can see the excitement this new generation of Vikings players have playing the game,” Randle said. “That’s a key element. They’re playing together so well.

“It reminds me of some old Vikings football. Guys rushing the quarterback, having the linebackers come up and making some serious knockout hits. Anthony Barr taking out Aaron Rodgers. They’re not just playing football. They’re playing some serious football. I really like them.”

Randle said the late Dennis Green had a saying.

“Offense wins games, but defense shows you what we’re made of,” Randle said. “I love how this team plays on defense. I hope they continue to play that way. I know we lost at Carolina, but that one loss will not define this season.”

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