The Vikings nominated tight end Kyle Rudolph for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award, the team announced Thursday.
The Rudolph family has donated time and money to children’s hospitals before and after he was drafted by the Vikings in 2011. Kyle and his wife, Jordan, donated $250,000 to help begin funding for “Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone,” a place for patients and families to relax at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
The hospital will receive an additional $50,000 from the NFL as part of Rudolph’s nomination.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great older guys around me — [former Vikings] Chad [Greenway], Steve Hutchinson and John Sullivan — that have kind of got me in the direction of helping this community out,” Rudolph said. “The Twin Cities are home for my wife Jordan and I and our girls, so we just want to try to make this place better.”
Rudolph’s nomination ends three consecutive bids for recently retired linebacker Greenway.
“As a rookie, Kyle immersed himself in the community and volunteered his time with many of the veteran players’ outreach initiatives,” said Brad Madson, Vikings director of community relations.
Rudolph’s work with children’s hospitals began in Cincinnati, where he was 15 months old when his brother, Casey, was born with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer found in young children. Casey beat the disease. Kyle has continued the cause as a father to year-old twin girls.
“Everyone knows my story with my younger brother and how children’s hospital charities have been something we’ve been passionate about all the way through,” Rudolph said. “Your perspective changes a lot once you have your own kids.”
The Payton award winner will be announced at Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
Panthers rookie Christian McCaffrey adds a different dimension to the Panthers backfield, a group the Vikings have faced in three of the past four seasons.
McCaffery is second among all NFL running backs with 64 catches, trailing only Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (66).
“They use him a little bit more as a zone-read guy, throw more screens to him,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “They’re a little bit more spread out when he’s in there, usually.”
Tight end David Morgan returned to practice after passing the concussion protocol, but was still limited.
Right tackle Mike Remmers appears likely to miss a fifth consecutive game against his former team in Carolina, still sidelined because of a lower-back injury suffered last week.
Three other Vikings were limited in practice: center Pat Elflein (shoulder), cornerback Mackensie Alexander (chest) and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (shoulder).
‘Stay on this same path’
The Vikings feel starting quarterback Case Keenum is playing “within himself,” as Zimmer said after the victory in Atlanta. As the Vikings put Keenum out there for a 12th start in Carolina, they’ve been pleased with his decisionmaking and calmer demeanor.
“You just caddie for him and help keep him in the moment,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “Case is good at that, but he gets amped up like all good players and it’s just a matter of keep communicating with him. He doesn’t need much of that. He’s done a really good job and is to be commended. He’s had an outstanding year and we’re hopeful he can just stay on this same path.”
Talking the talk
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is back with the Panthers, where he started his NFL career from 2009-13 before three seasons with the Vikings. Munnerlyn, a part-time defender for the Panthers, is a known talker, so Zimmer threw his own pregame barb.
“He won’t be saying too much, I don’t think,” Zimmer said.