MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings have released tight end and former Elder High School standout Kyle Rudolph, the team announced Tuesday.
Rudolph, 31, had 28 receptions for 334 yards and a touchdown before a foot injury kept him out of the last four games of the 2020 season. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and made the 2011 NFL All-Rookie Team, in addition to garnering a slew of local awards. In 2019, Rudolph inked a four-year, $36 million deal with the Vikings, who released him from that contract Tuesday.
"While I understand that a lot of the news today is going to focus on me and the team parting ways, I’d personally rather focus on the flip side of that: the fact that me and the Vikings stayed together for 10 whole seasons….. an insane run in today’s NFL," Rudolph wrote in an essay posted on The Player's Tribune.
Thank you Minnesota!! Although my time as a Viking has come to a close, my time as a MINNESOTAN is just getting started! https://t.co/eb2aP3O4vo— Kyle Rudolph (@KyleRudolph82) March 2, 2021
"Kyle has been a leader and mentor for us on and off the field from the first day I arrived in Minnesota," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer in a statement. "He has been such an important part of this team and community throughout his career and it has been an honor to coach him the last seven seasons. He will be missed, and we wish him and his family nothing but the best."
In his farewell essay, Rudolph reminisced about his NFL Draft Day in 2011, when he was picked 43rd overall out of Notre Dame by a team that already had three veteran tight ends.
"I’ll always remember that: how the Minnesota Vikings wanted me — and wanted to bet on my potential," he wrote. "Or to put it another way: how the Vikings believed in me."
He also lamented that in 10 seasons, he wasn't able to take the Vikings to a Super Bowl victory. The team came closest in that time in 2017, a campaign that saw Rudolph score a game-winning touchdown in the Vikings’ 26-20 overtime win over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC wild-card game.
"It pains me to be turning this page with any business left unfinished. But I think the team is in awesome hands. And when — not if, when — the Vikings finally win one, I’ll be first in line to say congratulations," he wrote.
Though Rudolph said he will be playing for another team come fall, his heart will always be in Minnesota.
"And then the last thing I want to say, is that this is a thank you — but it’s not a goodbye."
Read Rudolph's full essay on The Player's Tribune here.