The Minnesota Vikings will have a sixth player in the Pro Bowl next Sunday, as the team announced on Tuesday that tight end Kyle Rudolph has been selected as an alternate and will replace Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez in the game.
Rudolph will join running back Adrian Peterson, kicker Blair Walsh, defensive end Jared Allen, fullback Jerome Felton and linebacker Chad Greenway on the NFC roster, and he is the first Vikings’ tight end since Byron Chamberlain in 2001 to earn a Pro Bowl nod.
Rudolph had 53 receptions for 493 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns in his second NFL season, as he emerged as a threat for a Vikings’ passing offense that desperately needed his contribution. His numbers are even more impressive considering he did not have more than three catches or 50 yards in any of the final five games of the season, including Minnesota’s Wild Card playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Rudolph was at his best over a three-game stretch surrounding Minnesota’s Week 11 bye, with 18 receptions for 170 yards and three touchdowns against the Detroit Lions (Week 10), Chicago Bears (Week 12) and the Packers (Week 13). But he was also strangely absent from the game plan as a pass catcher in far too many games, which seemed to further bog down the Vikings’ passing game. The absence of wide receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) down the stretch and the struggles of quarterback Christian Ponder at times certainly played a role in that, but it would be advantageous for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to find ways to use Rudolph more effectively down the road.
I don’t necessarily feel like Rudolph performed at a Pro Bowl level during the 2012 season, but nonetheless it’s an honor I’m sure he is proud to receive. It should be the first of many trips he makes to Honolulu during his career, assuming the Pro Bowl lives on past this year.