MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)– The Minnesota Vikings are in offseason mode for a few more weeks, so it’s a good time to catch up with Kyle Rudolph, a tight end who’s blossoming before our eyes.

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Rudolph’s becoming a favorite target of Christian Ponder, and a player who looks like the future is bright.

He’s also coming in to training camp with the confidence of a veteran.

“You’re definitely more comfortable, and that comfort level changes a ton from year one to year two. And then, you know, you have another full year under your belt, you’re familiar with the coaches and the players,” Rudolph said. “I’m excited for this year. I think we got a good thing rolling. We were able to accomplish a lot in OTAs in mini-camp, and we’re excited to get going in training camp.”

Rudolph was the VIP of the 2012 Pro Bowl, which is not too shabby.

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“It was an incredible experience for me. I was extremely honored just to be named as an alternate for Tony [Gonzalez], and to have the opportunity to be over there with all the great players in our game, and to watch them and learn from them,” he said. “It’s just an exhibition game, but guys are still going out there, they want to put on a show, they want to have a good time. And to get to know them off the field and kinda how they go about their business – it definitely helped me a lot.”

His relationship with Christian Ponder is crucial.

“It’s extremely important. You know, everyone talks about being on the same page: tight end, wide receiver, quarterback. Making sure our passing game is clicking on all cylinders, cuz everyone knows our identity is to run the football, and we have the best in the game. But for us to be successful as an offense we have to be able to throw a football,” he said. “And we feel like this offseason we made a great step in that direction. Christian’s played very well, Christian’s put in the extra time, you know, with the guys starting in April when he came back here, throwing routes, really making sure that we are on the same page – and that’s quarterback and every wide receiver and tight end we have.”

And as rough as it was to lose to Green Bay in the playoffs, it did have a silver lining.

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“For us, leaving that locker room in Green Bay, you know, it was a feeling of, you know, we were excited with the year we had, being 10 and 6, making the playoffs. But exiting the playoffs in the wild card round isn’t what we were working for,” Rudolph said. “It was great, you know, in my second year to have an experience making the playoffs, playing in a playoff game. It doesn’t happen very often [for] guys in their careers. But that’s not where we want to go. You know, we’ve made that next step forward to, you know, hopefully win the division and bring a world championship back here to Minnesota.”

Mike Max