EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Kyle Rudolph split wide to the left and was matched up against Giants cornerback Trevin Wade.As the Minnesota Vikings tight end ran a slant into the end zone, Wade was all over him. But in his short time in Minnesota, quarterback Sam Bradford has quickly learned that even when Rudolph is covered, it doesnt mean hes not open.The 6-foot-6 Rudolph shielded the 5-foot-10 Wade behind him, giving Bradford a big target for what proved to be a much easier scoring pass than it probably should have been. The two have formed a fast connection, and Rudolph is exhibiting the difference-making skills that have occasionally been masked by injuries.Rudolph has 19 catches for 221 yards and three touchdowns, tied for the NFL lead among tight ends. He has caught a TD in each of the three games quarterbacked by Bradford, who was acquired just over a week before the regular season opener to take the place of the injured Teddy Bridgewater.It shows the confidence that Sam has in me to throw balls in those tight windows when guys are draped on my back or in close proximity, Rudolph said after a 24-10 victory over the New York Giants on Monday night improved the Vikings to 4-0. If he has the confidence to throw it to me in those situations I have to come down with the ball. I take pride in catching it in those situations.Rudolph has already been targeted 33 times this season, making him one of the featured elements of the Vikings passing game along with receiver Stefon Diggs, who also has 33 targets.Hes really good at being physical, especially through the catch, Bradford said. So I think theres times, even though a guy might be in good position, Kyle can use his body to come away with the catch.Rudolph did not practice on Wednesday and was listed on the injury report with clavicle and rib injuries. Right tackle Andre Smith (triceps), tight end Rhett Ellison (Rhett Ellison), Diggs (groin) and tight end David Morgan (knee) also did not practice on the first day of preparation for hosting the Houston Texans on Sunday.Rudolph was drafted in the second round in 2011. The Vikings were so tantalized by his size, speed and hands that they took him despite a severe hamstring injury that cut short his junior season at Notre Dame.By the time his second season was over, he was emerging as a force. He caught 53 passes, including nine TDs, and was named MVP of the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season. But injuries limited him to 17 games total in 2013 and 2014.He was able to play in all 16 games last year with Bridgewater, hauling in 49 passes for a career-high 495 yards and five TDs. Those numbers could have been even better had the Vikings not needed him to spend so much time blocking to help a beleaguered offensive line. This year, they have turned him loose a little more often, and they have needed to on an offense that is missing All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson while still working Bradford fully into the mix.Coach Mike Zimmer called what Bradford has done with Rudolph throwing him open.I thought hes made some really good catches in tight quarters, Zimmer said Wednesday. Theres the one third down play where the ball was a little low the other day and he made a nice catch on that. Kyles got good hands and theyre developing a good rapport.A big start to the season only got bigger this week when Rudolph and his wife Jordan welcomed twin girls to the family. He had hoped to catch two touchdown passes in the game against the Giants, one for each of them.I guess theyll have to learn to share, Rudolph said. Thats their first lesson.---Online:AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga.WASHINGTON -- Atlanta pitcher Julio Teheran insisted he didnt mean to plunk Washingtons Bryce Harper with a pitch two innings after the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year homered. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after his clubs 2-1 victory over the Nationals on Tuesday night that "it definitely wasnt on purpose." Harper -- and everyone else connected to the Nationals -- was sure it was. "Its part of the game and its something, I guess, hes got to do," Harper said, his hands on his hips. Then, asked whether he was surprised Teheran hit him, Harper offered this nugget: "Uh, I hit that ball pretty far off him. So no, not really." And Washington manager Davey Johnson observed: "You file it for future reference." All in all, the sort of stuff rivalries and high-drama playoff chases are made of. Except, in this particular case, Evan Gattis two-run single in the fifth, and the six innings thrown by Teheran (9-5) while allowing one run, combined to produce Atlantas season-high 12th consecutive win, padding their NL East lead to 14 1/2 games over Washington. It was the latest weak hitting performance by a Nationals club thats had trouble at the plate since April and is now five games under .500 a year after leading the majors with 98 wins. "Theres no point in looking back and hanging our head. Weve got two options now: We can cash it in and think about next year or we can grind it out and see what happens," said Adam LaRoche, who grounded out on a 2-0 pitch with the bases loaded against reliever Luis Avilan to end the seventh. "Im pretty sure were going to keep pushing." Gattis big hit came off Gio Gonzalez (7-5), who pitched one night after Major League Baseball announced its Biogenesis investigation cleared the left-hander. Adding to the theatrics: Gattis was only in the game because he replaced Jason Heyward, who left with a neck muscle strain after popping out in the first inning. "Adrenaline kind of takes over," Gattis said about getting thrown into the lineup. "Theres kind of not much time to think about it." Harper put Washington ahead 1-0 with one out in the third, driving the first pitch of the at-bat onto the grassy hill in straightaway centre for his 17th homer. Harper paused a bit as he left the batters box, watching the ball fly, then dropped his bat and took a slower-than-usual-for-him trot around the baases.dddddddddddd. "Yeah, he sat there for a little bit, but it is what it is," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. Asked about Teherans intent during Harpers next turn up, in the fifth, McCann answered: "Im not sure. I dont have the ball." When Harper went to the plate with Washington trailing 2-1, Teherans first pitch hit him on the right leg. Harper barked at Teheran and pointed at the right-hander. McCann moved toward Harper, before an umpire got in the way. "Obviously Bryce didnt like it, (and) we dont blame him," LaRoche said. Members of both teams streamed onto the field, but they stayed separated and no punches were thrown. Even Heyward came out onto the grass, with a blue shirt on but not his jersey. "Boys being boys," Fredi Gonzalez called it. Not long after, the clubs official Twitter feeds mixed it up a bit. The Braves tweeted: "Clown move bro," tweaking Harpers famous retort to a reporter last season, "Thats a clown question, bro." The Nationals then replied on Twitter: "Which part, giving up the home run, or drilling the 20-year-old on the first pitch his next time up?" Teheran wound up allowing four hits and the lone run. He gave way to Avilan, who got out of that jam in the seventh. Jordan Walden struck out the side in the eighth, and Craig Kimbrel did the same in the ninth, collecting his 35th save by whiffing Harper swinging at a high, 99 mph fastball. Asked afterward whether he thought about charging the mound when he got hit, Harper said: "Nah, I wasnt going to go out there. I mean, 14 1/2 games down, and I need to be in the lineup." Notes: The Braves listed Heyward as day to day. After the game, he said a doctor told him it was a spasm. ... Former major league closer Billy Wagner, who spent the final season of his 16-year career with the Braves, was in the visitors clubhouse before the game. Wagner, now a high school baseball coach, recently wrote an autobiography called "A Way Out." "Its not meant to be a bestseller," Wagner said. "Its meant to help that kid that is in Southwest Virginia, who somebody said, Youre not going to be anything, and youre never going to accomplish anything. Its meant for those people, so that they can read it and go, Well, this kid was in the same situation. You might not go on to be a major leaguer, but theres a way out." China Jerseys Cheap Wholesale Jerseys 2020 Wholesale Jerseys China Cheap NFL Jerseys China Wholesale Jerseys 2020 Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Cheap Jerseys Online
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