MANKATO, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings have pledged to make Kyle Rudolph a larger part of their offense for, well, his whole career.
Now this enhanced role is almost inevitable: He’s carrying 15 fewer pounds this season and playing for a lot more money.
“It’s an honor to know that they have the faith in me and the trust in me to instill that value in me, and I’m going to do everything I can to go out on the field and perform at that level,” Rudolph said between practices on Monday, after signing a five-year contract extension the night before.
He added: “I want to be the best tight end in the NFL, and that’s why I go out every day to work the way that I do.”
The Vikings were enamored enough with the soft-handed, slender Rudolph that they drafted him out of Notre Dame in the second round in 2011 despite a nasty injury, a torn right hamstring, that he was still recovering from at the time.
Rudolph won the Most Valuable Player award at the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season, but he has accumulated a modest 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns over three years in the NFL. Jimmy Graham exceeded both of those totals last season for New Orleans. Rob Gronkowski did the same three years ago for New England.
Rudolph’s new deal has a maximum worth of $40 million. About half of that is practically guaranteed, and his annual average salary will be in the top five of all NFL tight ends. Graham makes the most.
BENJAMIN HAS BONE BRUISE: In Spartanburg, S.C., the Panthers are breathing a sigh of relief over rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said an MRI revealed the team’s first-round draft pick has a bone bruise in his left knee and will miss at least a few days of training camp.
“We got a bit of good news,” Rivera said Monday. “It’s stable and everything is fine. There’s nothing structurally wrong. It is bruised. There is a swelling and what we refer to as a hot spot.”
Rivera wouldn’t give a specific timetable on Benjamin’s return.
He said it should take a “few days” for the swelling to subside, but the Panthers will play it by ear and lean largely on how Benjamin feels before putting him back on the field.
Rivera said Benjamin injured the knee on Sunday when he “bumped knees” with another player.
FISTS FLYING IN PHILLY: In Philadelphia, this Eagles’ defense won’t be pushed around.
For the second straight day at Philadelphia’s training camp, a fight broke out between an offensive and defensive player. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher took on wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on Monday. Linebacker Trent Cole got into it with All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy a day earlier.
“We’re just playing ball,” Fletcher said. “Emotions got going and one thing led to another. It’s football. Things happen. We’re all working to get better. We just go on to the next day.”
Maclin walked off the field and declined to speak to reporters.
Cornerback Cary Williams was glad to see it.
“You’re not supposed to be friends at camp, although you look out for your brother,” Williams said. “You’re fighting for jobs, fighting for opportunities”
SUH CONTRACT TALKS POSTPONED: In Allen Park, Mich, the Detroit Lions are postponing contract talks with All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh until after the season.
Suh is entering the final season of his contract, and team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew said before practice Monday that negotiations are being tabled. Lewand and Mayhew both expressed optimism that a deal can eventually be reached.
If the two sides can’t come to an agreement after the season, the Lions could still keep Suh by using their franchise tag on him.
Suh was drafted in 2010 by the Lions with the second overall pick, and he has 271/2 sacks in his four pro seasons.