The Vikings players who practiced against Xavier Rhodes during his seven-year run in Minnesota paid tribute to him Wednesday by remembering him as he was at his best:
The “Rhodes Closed” lockdown corner who followed an opponent’s best receiver across the field and took them out of games on many occasions.
“I mean, shoot, I can go back to Day 1 in the Vikings organization at rookie camp [in 2013], going against him every single day,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “Pretty much from there on, looking at my practice squad year, going against him every day, and then moving forward in training camp and things like that.
‘‘Honestly, he’s probably been a big part of who I am today because he’s challenged me, he’s pushed me, he’s made things very difficult on me.”
In reality, Rhodes isn’t playing the same role for the Colts in 2020 as he did for the Vikings during his 2016-17 peak, and the former first-round pick’s departure from Minnesota seemed imminent after an injury-plagued 2018 and disappointing 2019.
Indianapolis uses the 30-year-old cornerback in more zone coverages than the Vikings did, and he gave up three catches, including a touchdown, on the three occasions the Jaguars targeted him Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus.
With Rhodes now an opponent, though, his former teammates took turns praising him Wednesday.
“I love Xavier. He’s a great kid, a good competitor,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We had a lot of good times together. We worked really close for a number of years, I guess it was. I hope he has a good year and is staying safe and healthy.”
When asked if he thought the Colts would use Rhodes on Thielen the way the Vikings used to use him against other top receivers, Zimmer said: “I don’t perceive that, but you never know in each game. Maybe because he knows Adam pretty well and he’s gone against him in practice a lot, maybe he will. But I don’t think that will be the case.”
Playing against fans on the road
The Vikings won’t admit fans to U.S. Bank Stadium for their second home game a week from Sunday against the Titans, but they’ll get a preview of what some of their later home games could look like when they travel to Indianapolis, where the Colts will admit 2,500 fans for their home opener.
The Colts’ plan at Lucas Oil Stadium could provide something of a template for the Vikings if they try to bring a small number of fans back for home games in October or November. It also means after playing in a quiet environment at home Sunday, they’ll hear at least a bit of noise as the road team this weekend
“I’m not sure what 2,500 fans will be like,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “I don’t know if 2,500 fans in a certain stadium has a different sound than 2,500 in another stadium. From the way I understand it when they had 15,000 at Arrowhead, it was still producing a fair amount of noise, and obviously when you have zero in a stadium it’s not producing much, so 2,500 is somewhere in between.
“I know in high school I probably didn’t play in front of 2,500 fans very often — it was usually less than that — but if we had gotten 2,500, I think the stadium’s got a lot of juice, so if high school football is any indication I would expect there’s still going to be some noise.”
The Vikings’ second road game is in Houston on Oct. 4; the Texans announced they will not have fans at their home opener against the Ravens this Sunday, but have not announced plans for their second home game against the Vikings.
Dantzler misses practice
Cornerback Cameron Dantzler, who watched the open portion of practice in sweats, was the only Vikings player not to practice Wednesday, as he sat out because of a rib injury.
Cornerback Jeff Gladney and wide receiver Bisi Johnson, who were listed on the injury report with knee injuries, practiced in full.
Hall of Fame Class of 2021 update
Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, former Vikings teammates with a combined nine first-team All-Pro selections, are among the list of 130 players who will be considered for the 25 modern-era semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.
Other former Vikings among the 130 are Matt Birk, Herschel Walker, Gary Anderson and Ryan Longwell.
The headliners of the group are Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson.