In Sunday's game, Rudolph caught a career-high seven passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. Rudolph, who was on the field for every play against Seattle despite not catching pass, said that his job wasn't just about catching passes. It was about keeping Ponder focused on the positives and not the negatives. While the previous three weeks had been disappointing, they had built months of trust and progression that couldn't be shut down by a lack of completions and touchdowns.
"It's just about keeping his confidence," Rudolph said. "He's a great player. He got here last year and the strides he made this offseason – April 23 when we got here, we saw the great quarterback Christian is. We kept reminding him, ‘You're a great player. Have confidence in yourself and you will make plays."
Rudolph didn't get frustrated by his lack of offensive contribution in terms of catching passes. As he saw it, if he didn't catch a pass, it didn't matter as long as he was doing the other requisite duties that would help the team succeed.
"It's tough, but when we're not being targeted or not making catches, we can still contribute to this offense," Rudolph said. "Whether it's blocking in the run game or pass protection, we can't let receptions be what defines who we are. Those are things we can't control. What we can control is helping the offense be successful, whether it's catching passes or making blocks that help get other people opened up. Whether it's opening a hole for Adrian (Peterson) or keeping Christian upright, we have to control those things that we can control."
Without coming right out and saying it, Rudolph is becoming a team leader. When others might grouse about not getting passes thrown their way (Bernard Berrian and some guy named Randy come immediately to mind), Rudolph has found a way to uplift his teammates rather than question his own role in the offense. He may not get the accolades afforded to Peterson, Ponder, Percy Harvin, Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, Kevin Williams or Antoine Winfield, but Rudolph is quietly taking his place in their class in terms of being a foundation point for the franchise moving forward.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.