CINCINNATI – It will be homecoming for Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and head coach Mike Zimmer at Paul Brown Stadium this week.
The Vikings will be in town for two days of practices with the Bengals Wednesday and Thursday and their opening preseason game Friday night.
Rudolph, a former Elder High star, is eager to see and be seen by family and friends.
"As soon as the schedule came out and we found out we were going to Cincinnati for the first game, obviously people were excited," he said. "Knowing it's the first preseason game, I might not get to see a lot of action, but when we're practicing there for two days everyone can come to practice and watch almost 72 hours of football."
Rudolph is coming off one of his best seasons with 49 catches for 495 yards, but injuries limited him his previous two seasons. He was sidelined by an injury the last time the Vikings came to Paul Brown Stadium in December 2013.
“It’s exciting,” he told the Pioneer Press about coming home and playing at PBS. “I’m sure there’ll be a lot of purple mixed in with the orange and black there. I haven’t played there since I was in high school. It’ll be fun.”
Zimmer, the Bengals' defensive coordinator from 2008 to 2013 and a valuable contributor to the team's playoff run, is also looking forward to getting reacquainted.
“There are a lot of players there that I’ve spent a lot of time with,” Zimmer said after Tuesday’s practice in Minnesota.
It will be the first football trip back to Cincinnati for Zimmer, who has a ranch in Northern Kentucky.
After Zimmer got his first NFL head coaching job with the Vikings in 2014, he improved the team's record from 5-10-1 to 7-9 in his first season. Last year, the Vikings won the NFC North with an 11-5 mark.
Zimmer said he's eager to see how his players stack up against the AFC North champions after three weeks of competing with teammates.
"I know who their really good players are, so when we're competing against those really good players I'd like to make sure we're just as effective against them," Zimmer said.
He said he would be keeping a close eye on center John Sullivan, who missed the entire 2015 season with a back injury. Zimmer said he's eager to see Sullivan block nose tackle Domata Peko.
"It'll be a good test," Zimmer said.
Two former Bengals, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and right tackle Andre Smith, are expected to start for the Vikings.
Lamur said he's been encouraged by the intensity of training camp.
"These guys, man, they're hard workers. Each and every individual," Lamur said.
"Most of the veterans, the guys that played 10 years in the league here, they're still busting their butt. They don't take days off. That says a lot about their character and just about their integrity. It motivates the younger guys to push as hard."
Practices with the Vikings are open free to the public. They will be held on the fields west of the stadium. Here is the schedule:
> Wednesday: Gates open at 2:30 p.m., practice begins at 3 p.m. (practice time estimated 90 minutes).
> Thursday: Gates open at 10:30 a.m., practice begins at 11 a.m. (practice time estimated one hour).
Times are subject to change. Fans are advised to check www.bengals.com/camp on the days of practices.
There are 1,250 bleacher seats plus additional room for fans to stand along the sidelines. No passes will be required to enter.
Fans are allowed to bring small soft-sided coolers, unopened bottles of water and food. Concessions and Bengals merchandise are available to purchase. No chairs or other temporary seating will be permitted.
No more practices will be open to the public after Friday.