An All-Pro cornerback still resides inside Xavier Rhodes, who believes the key to returning to his 2017 form is listening to his own body as he enters the second half of his NFL career.
Rhodes, 29, pinned last year’s mediocre campaign — compared to the shutdown standard he set previously — on frustration from injuries that mounted because of a lack of rest and an unrelenting weekly workout schedule.
By the end of last season, during which Rhodes was listed as questionable five times and played a career-low 74% of snaps since becoming a starter, his broken parts mounted.
“Ankle, hammy, glute, back,” Rhodes said. “Yeah.”
Coach Mike Zimmer challenged Rhodes this offseason, saying the two-time Pro Bowler “needs to play up to his contract,” which pays about $14 million annually.
An offseason of “scaled back” workouts, mixing Pilates, yoga and recovery treatments into his day, has Rhodes feeling primed for a rebound. The Vikings need him — quickly. This season’s runway is short with the Falcons’ Julio Jones, the Packers’ Davante Adams and the Raiders’ Antonio Brown coming in the first three weeks.
“We are just looking for him to be consistent,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “He has done a good job of that thus far, and that way he will be consistent when it gets to the game.”
Last season, Rhodes’ injuries made him increasingly unable to use his 79-inch wingspan on receivers. He was the Vikings’ most penalized player with more yellow flags (nine) than pass deflections (seven). More than half of those penalties came in the final five weeks, when he was dealing with hamstring, ankle and groin injuries at the end of the year.
So Rhodes said he reshaped his offseason regimen, which previously called for workouts — strength, agility and field drills — eight hours a day, five days a week. Physical therapy only came afterward.
“A lot of people always tell me, ‘Xavier, your body is tired, listen to it,’ ” Rhodes said. “I’m always the type of guy that feels like I need to work. This year is going to be more resting my body, doing more treatment and watching more film like I always do.”
This season, Rhodes said he’ll listen to his body, which should be welcomed news for the Vikings as they need a healthy shutdown cornerback while two young reserves — Mike Hughes (knee) and Holton Hill (eight-game suspension) — remain unavailable.
“Rest and keeping my weight down, those are my main goals. Everything else is going to pan out,” Rhodes said. “I’ve been playing football for so long, so I’ve got some of the fundamentals down. There are still some things I need to learn. At the same time, I’m a vet now. So it’s more about resting my body, recovering and keeping my mind clear.”