EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – After 10 seasons wearing Minnesota Vikings purple, Kyle Rudolph will need time adjusting to Giants blue.
"The hardest thing for me was to quit referring to the Vikings as 'we' and 'our'," Rudolph said on an introductory Zoom news conference soon after signing his contract. "I kept catching myself saying 'we' and 'our' and I was no longer a Minnesota Viking. I've actually done it a couple of times today as well."
He'll likely stop very soon, because Rudolph is clearly thrilled to join the Giants organization. Rudolph played his entire career for the Vikings until his release on March 2. He reached a contract agreement with the Giants 16 days later.
"It certainly was different being a free agent," Rudolph said. "But for me going through the free agency process, each and every day there were new updates, new teams, new opportunities. I remember telling my wife (Jordan) - we were sitting at lunch in Minnesota with our two-year-old son - and I just got off the phone with coach (Joe) Judge and coach (Jason) Garrett (the Giants' offensive coordinator) and at that point there were 12 or 13 different options and I knew New York was the place that I needed to be. This was the team, this was the organization that we needed to go to next. As soon as I hung up the phone, I knew that this was the perfect fit.
"There's a reason why I came here and one of the many reasons is the way this organization is run from the top down. I couldn't be more excited to be a New York Giant, to be a part of this team, a part of this locker room and be a part of this community."
The Giants have signed two-time Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph to a contract.
Throughout his career, Rudolph has made a difference there and on the field. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and a three-time Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee and Vikings Community Man of the Year.
Rudolph, 31, has been one of the NFL's most productive and consistent tight ends. His 48 touchdown catches and his 83 receptions in 2016 are the Minnesota career and single-season records, respectively, for his position.
Rudolph has played in 140 regular-season games with 132 starts and has started all six postseason games in which he played. Rudolph has 453 receptions for 4,488 yards in the regular season and 16 catches for 154 yards and two scores in the playoffs. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2012 (when he was the game's MVP) and 2017.
Last season, Rudolph played in the season's first 12 games and had 28 catches for 334 yards and one touchdown. Each figure was below his career norm, which Rudolph attributes to his increased use as a blocker.
"You can just look at my role and what I was asked to do," he said. "Turn on the tape and watch what I was doing. A silver lining to that is, you look at the first eight years of my career and I was really only known as a pass catcher. I've played with a couple of really good running backs in my time in Minnesota with Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook most recently. With my role changing over the last couple of years, it wasn't that I couldn't run around and catch balls anymore. I was just doing more of the blocking stuff.
"I'm extremely competitive and it forced me to go one of two ways. I could have either complained about it or I could have taken it as a challenge to improve that aspect of my game. It's funny going throughout the free agency process and getting feedback from teams and hearing how good of a blocker they thought I was. That was just so foreign to me because my whole life, blocking was something that I really had to work on and never did well. Over the last two years, I've been able to improve that aspect of my game and certainly looking forward to bringing that aspect of my game here to the New York Giants, now playing with another phenomenal running back in Saquon (Barkley)."
Rudolph expects to use both his receiving and blocking skills to help the Giants. And he is excited to team with Evan Engram to give the offense a pair of dangerous weapons at tight end.
"I'm looking forward to being able to bring both of those aspects," he said. "Being able to improve my run game, pass protection over the last couple of years but knowing that I could certainly still help a football team, whether it be on first down and second down, third down, in the red zone. I really look forward to working with Evan and I think we can complement each other very well. Obviously, he does things that I can't even imagine doing.
"Then you look throughout the rest of our room with Kaden (Smith) and Levine (Toilolo) and … we have four guys that can really go out and play at a high level. I think it allows your offense to really put defenses in tough situations when you can put multiple tight ends on the field. It really allows us to dictate how the game is going to go. I'm not even going to mention all the playmakers in the receiver room, there's just so many opportunities for this offense to go out and put pressure on defenses. I'm looking forward to being a part of it."
The 6-6, 265-pounder should provide a big boost – literally and figuratively – in the red zone, where the Giants' ranked 31st last season with a 46.3 touchdown percentage (19 touchdowns on 41 possessions inside the 20). That is an area where Rudolph has excelled throughout his career.
"The field is condensed, there are smaller windows, tighter throws, but I think one of the things that has helped me throughout my career is making contested catches," he said. "You're not going to get a guy to schematically come wide open in the end zone. You don't see it very often. From time to time you may, but most of the time red zone scoring is bang-bang passes and it takes trust from a quarterback – 'Hey, I can throw this ball into a tight window and I know that either Kyle is going to catch it or no one is going to catch it.' I really pride myself on when a quarterback believes in me and trusts me to throw a ball into a contested area that he knows either I'm going to get it, or nobody is going to get it. Hopefully, more times than not I'm getting it and we're scoring touchdowns."
Before that happens, Rudolph must undergo a procedure to repair a foot injury that forced him to miss the final four games of the 2019 season. Rudolph seems capable of dealing with anything from a positive perspective and this is no different.
"It's kind of a blessing that we're able to find this issue," he said. "It was an issue from the season, we can fix it in March, and I won't miss any football. I'm extremely excited to be a New York Giant and I feel like it's a blessing that I'm able to deal with it now in March and not … something that we deal with during the season. Like anything in life, I attack it head-on and I'll attack this rehab process head-on and I look forward to being out there with my teammates when we start playing football.
"Everyone expected it to heal on its own and it didn't. It needs to be fixed and like I said, I'm just extremely grateful for the Giants' medical staff, Dr. (Scott) Rodeo (the team physician), everyone that was involved in the process. I'm excited to get it fixed and move past it."