It has to be a great feeling for Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph to be playing in his 21st consecutive game after back-to-back seasons in which he dealt with major injuries.
But what has to feel even better is that he has 14 receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns in three games, tied for the most TDs among tight ends. He has 12 receptions for first downs, which is first among tight ends and ties for 12th in the league regardless of position.
Rudolph said that last week's victory, in which he had seven receptions for 70 yards and a score at Carolina, was one of the best of his career.
"It's fun to be involved, and to have the opportunity to help us win down there in Carolina was a lot of fun and a big win," Rudolph said. "It was probably one of the best road wins I've been a part of.
"It's definitely up there for one of the best wins that we've had in my six years here. It's right up there with winning on the road in Green Bay to win the division last year, and it's definitely up there with one of the best road wins we've had."
Rudolph was asked what has changed in the past three seasons, as the Vikings climbed from 5-10-1 to 7-9 to 11-5 last year and now 3-0 to start this season.
"It's Coach [Mike] Zimmer," Rudolph said. "It's his mentality. It's the way he has instilled a mind-set into us that if we go out and do what we need to do and play the way he expects us to play, we can win any game."
Has Rudolph noticed any difference in the play-calling since the running game has struggled so much?
"It's the same offense we've been doing, and our identity is always going to be running the football, and we have to get better running the football and we think we can take advantage of some things in the pass game as well," he said.
Adapting to Bradford
One week before the season began, Rudolph had been working hard to build a good relationship with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Now in a very short time he appears to be working well with new quarterback Sam Bradford, who has targeted him 18 times the past two games, completing 10 passes for 101 yards and two scores.
What does Rudolph see from Bradford? "Sam is an unbelievable talent," he said. "There's a reason why he was the first overall pick in the draft when he came out. You know he's another guy, he's healthy and he's out there throwing the ball well."
When it comes to his playing style, Rudolph said: "Sam has all the intangibles as a quarterback. I'm not a quarterback evaluator, but I just see the throws he makes and he has an innate feel for timing with receivers."
This is the second consecutive season that Rudolph has been able to prepare for in the offseason without injury concerns.
"I just trained the way I always do," he said. "I take pride in the way I train in the offseason and trained hard to be ready for a long season.
"I'm at the same weight that I've been since my rookie year, and I'm definitely in good shape."
This is an exciting time for Rudolph, whose wife is expecting twins. He is with her every second away from football because the birth could happen at any moment.
Rudolph, 26, is signed with the Vikings through 2019, and he said he doesn't have any plans on getting away from football.
"Hopefully, play for a long time," Rudolph said. "I think I have a lot of years left playing, and we'll see after that."
Great golfer, better man
Arnold Palmer not only was a great golfer but a wonderful man as well.
Twin Cities golf fans will recall that despite the fact that Palmer was in very bad physical shape, he had promised Hollis Cavner — whose Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo might be the last course Palmer ever designed — that he would come look at the course and attend the Champions Tour's 3M Championship in Blaine the same August weekend.
So despite the fact that Palmer was scheduled for heart surgery, he came to Minnesota accompanied by a nurse, who was really concerned about Palmer while he was here. He did that just so he could be there for the final time at Cavner's tournament.
Believe it or not, I had a great relationship with Palmer. He was on WCCO radio with me many times, and one of my prized possessions is a picture of Palmer and me in the studio. I was introduced to Palmer by the late Howard Fox, who was a close friend of Palmer's. We had many dinners together whenever Palmer came to town.
In fact, Joel Rippel of the Star Tribune sports department recalled us being in the same restaurant in Orlando with Palmer while we were in Florida for spring training with the Twins in the early 1980s. Rippel recalled how long of a conversation we had with him, and how friendly he was.
There was no more important golfer or better man than Arnold Palmer, and he always acted with tremendous class.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO
AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org