Minnesota Vikings’ Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph is penning a weekly blog during the 2017 NFL season. In his first offering, he discusses the growth of the game in the UK, the Vikings’ chances in the coming campaign and the return of a familiar face to Minnesota in Week One…
It’s exciting to be heading back over to London later in the season, in Week Eight. We had a great experience the last time we were over, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley in 2013.
It will be a little different this time around because we’re not the home team but we do know how much the fans in the UK love the Vikings so I’m excited to get back, experience the atmosphere and to see another of the UK’s great stadiums, Twickenham.
Seeing the love the NFL UK fans have for our game is awesome. I think if the NFL can figure it out logistically, it makes sense for London to have a franchise. The fans are hungry for the NFL and it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make it work.
They are trying to figure all of that out because they have seen the success of one game, two games, three games and now we have four over there in 2017. Four games: we are halfway through a season. Make it eight and we have a full one and so might as well have a team.
As far as the 2017 season goes with the Vikings, our goal this year is to bring a first NFL championship to Minnesota. That would be extra special this year because the Super Bowl is in our own stadium. This year is all about taking care of our own business, so that teams have to come to our incredible stadium to play us in the playoffs.
Home field advantage is huge. Our stadium is unlike any I have ever played in. It is definitely the loudest stadium I have ever played in and when our defense is out there on third down and the play clock is running, there is not a whole lot you can hear – that helps us a ton.
As far as how our team is going to shape up after an up and down 8-8 campaign in 2016, I think people will see an improved version of the team that started last season unbeaten through five games. We have the talent and personnel of a team that was 5-0 but we are also a team that learned a lot from the second half of last season when we went 3-8. I think we will be a better combination of both.
And we have high hopes for our quarterback, Sam Bradford. I think the biggest and most obvious thing is going to be the comfort that Sam will have in our system and being with our team for a whole offseason. He has been around our coaches all year and has managed to get the reps that he couldn’t when coming in late last year.
We flew by the seat of our pants a little bit, practicing with Sam for just 13 days before we went out and played the Green Bay Packers. We actually didn’t change a whole lot of what we were running, and it was not that basic, so it speaks to Sam and his intelligence to be able to pick things up so well.
Finally, it will be a special game when we get our season started at home against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. There is a ton of energy and excitement in any NFL season opener but, having our former superstar running back Adrian Peterson coming back to visit, takes it to another level of excitement.
I’ll check in with you guys next week. Enjoy opening weekend!