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Updated: November 7th, 2012 5:04pm
Notebook: Kyle Rudolph remains confident he can always make the catch

Notebook: Kyle Rudolph remains confident he can always make the catch

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As the Minnesota Vikings wrapped up practice Wednesday, quarterback Christian Ponder and tight end Kyle Rudolph made their way to an adjacent field to do a little more work.

Rudolph said this was nothing unusual.

"(It's) nothing more than we've done the first nine weeks of the season," he said. "We're still doing our normal practice reps, and we always get a little work after practice while the rest of the guys are still doing the developmental work. So nothing's really changed between the two of us."

But something has changed and it isn't for the better.

Rudolph had 25 receptions for 225 yards and five touchdowns in the first six games of the season. In the past three, he has two catches for 17 yards and no touchdowns. Both of those receptions came on Oct. 25 against Tampa Bay, meaning Rudolph has been held without a reception in two of the past three games.

"It's just the way things go sometimes," Rudolph said. "We need to obviously make a more concerted effort, but also it's on me to make sure I'm winning every time. That's all I can control, winning in the pass game and making sure there's multiple other ways we can contribute in the pass game besides pass stats.

"In this day and age, all people care about are pass stats. It's all we talk about. How do you get to the Pro Bowl? Catch touchdowns. Catch passes. But as a tight end, there's a whole lot more that goes into it than just that."

The issue is that Rudolph was expected to be one of Ponder's primary targets this season. That was especially true when it became clear the vertical passing game would be an issue for the Vikings.

Coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged the need to get Rudolph more engaged in the passing game on Wednesday.

Rudolph might not always be wide open when Ponder wants to throw him the ball, but Rudolph said he doesn't need to be uncovered to make a catch. At 6-foot-6, 258 pounds, he has the ability to go get the ball, or break up the play if necessary.

"(I feel) 100 percent comfortable," Rudolph said when asked about getting a pass thrown to him while covered. "That's why a tight end is your best friend. We're big and we have a large catch radius so it doesn't have to be a perfect throw. That's the part where you've just got to have trust in us that, 'Even if I don't make a perfect throw, he's going to get it. He's not going to let anything happen where a DB might get his hands on it.'"

While much of the blame for the woes in the passing game have landed on Ponder, Rudolph also took a share of the responsibility and said the fact opponents are getting quick hits on him within the first 5 yards of his route is just the norm for a tight end.

"I have to do a better job of providing a target for Christian, whether it's crossing routes or intermediate quick routes," he said. "The biggest thing is getting separation at the top. Throughout the course of the game a person can watch and see, 'Oh, you're open there.' But it's always about the timing of the separation, and we need to get back on that same page of having the separation at the right time."

Frazier spoke Wednesday about adjustments to the Vikings' routes and protection calls for Sunday's game against Detroit. The team's passing offense has fallen to 30th in the NFL after Ponder threw for 58 yards two weeks ago against Arizona and 63 yards last Sunday in Seattle.

"I think it's one of those things where, like Coach Frazier mentioned on Monday when we came in, we've got to peel back the onion and see what we were doing well early in the season," Rudolph said. "I think we're really getting back to our roots. We got a little away from things that we do well in the pass game. Anytime you have a guy like 28 (running back Adrian Peterson) pulling off 10, 12 yards a carry, we need to take advantage of that and I think we need to get back to that."

Ponder's confidence

There has been plenty of talk of late about Ponder's confidence and the fact it seems to be declining each week. But Rudolph, who is good friends with Ponder, and like the quarterback is in his second NFL season, feels that's not the case.

"I think it's on its way back up," he said of Ponder's confidence. "I think we're at a point in our season where it's onward from here. We have a great opportunity in front of ourselves and we've got to forget what's happened the last three weeks and put it behind us, move forward. Because if we can get to 6-4 at our bye, we're in a great situation."

The Vikings will have their off week following the Detroit game.

Rudolph did add that teammates are trying to make it clear to Ponder that he isn't in this alone.

"Christian's the type of guy that he takes a lot of responsibility on himself, as all great leaders and quarterbacks do," Rudolph said. "Myself, a few of the other guys who are closer to Christian, just have to kind of relate to him, 'Hey, man. It's not always you.' As a quarterback you take all the glory and you take all the blame. So we've got to take some of that from Christian as well."

Ready for his chance

With Percy Harvin nursing a sprained ankle that kept him out of practice Wednesday, there would appear to be a chance that rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright could help take Harvin's place Sunday.

Wright, a fourth-round pick by the Vikings last April, has yet to be active for a game this season.

"It's just been real difficult with me because I like to play," Wright said. "I like to get out there and I like to compete and I like to have a chance to help the team out. Not that I don't help the team out as far as (from a) practicing standpoint and everything. But as far as getting out there on Sunday, I love playing football and I'd love to get a chance to help out the Minnesota Vikings."

Wright said that Harvin has been giving him advice all season. The two are both slot receivers and have similar builds. Harvin is 5-foot-11, 184 pounds and Wright is 5-foot-10, 180 pounds.

Harvin, of course, is one of the NFL's best slot receivers and has a team-leading 62 catches for 677 yards and three touchdowns.

"There's not too many people that can get in there and fill Percy's role," Wright said. "Me, you just try to fill in the speed part. He's bigger, as far as muscles and like, but our body styles are pretty much the same. So, as far as body styles and speed and things like that, that's what you try to get out of that."

As far as getting his chance, Wright is confident once the opportunity arrives he will take advantage of it.

"I feel like it is an opportunity to crack the door," he said. "I've been patiently waiting and if they feel like I'm ready then I feel like I'm ready also."

None of your business

Nose tackle Letroy Guion did not practice Wednesday because of turf toe and could miss Sunday's game. That would mean Fred Evans likely would take his spot as the starter. But who would play behind Evans in the Vikings' rotation system?

"We've got some other guys that we'll move in," Frazier said, declining to name them. "There are only so many linemen we have dressed but we would rotate guys."

Frazier said Evans' snap count could be increased without a problem.

Guion, meanwhile, suffered the painful injury right before halftime last Sunday.

"It affected him, particularly in that last series he struggled," Frazier said. "We probably should have gotten him out of there looking back at it. It definitely affected him in that ball game late. ... He played an entire second half with that toe bothering him. Early on in the second half he did pretty good, but as the game went on and we got more snaps, it got a little bit worse."

Where did he go?

Peterson had 17 carries for 182 yards with two touchdowns against the Seahawks, but only five of those attempts came in the second half.

"That ball game on Sunday, it happens sometimes," Frazier said in explaining the decrease in Peterson's touches. "You don't want it to happen. You need to get first downs to maintain possession of the ball and when you're not getting first downs in the second half and you fall behind, it puts us in peril when it comes to handing the ball off to Adrian.

"That's where we found ourselves, particularly in the fourth quarter. It got to a point where it was a two score game, so all of a sudden, you've taken your greatest weapon and put us in a bad spot. We have to do some things to get first downs so we can maintain possession of the ball and continue to hand it off to Adrian and at the same time, score touchdowns and not give up touchdowns."

Quick hits

Tight end John Carlson returned to practice Wednesday after missing the past two games because of a concussion.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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