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Kyle Rudolph has made a sharp first impression.
"Boy, he's a friendly target," Cousins said one sunny afternoon last month
after completing a pass to his strong-handed tight end during non-contact drills
when he wore a wireless microphone to allow the team's video production
department to create a brief highlight clip for the website. "It's like throwing
into a mattress."
The eighth-year veteran has been happy to oblige his new quarterback, trying
to, well, be the best piece of bedtime furniture he can be.
"That's a new one for me. I'm OK with it. Try to make sure that he's always
getting a good night sleep, always be there for him. That's kind of my role
around here," Rudolph said on Tuesday after practice.
Cousins recently described a play in a red zone situation when he looked at
his two-time Pro Bowl tight end during his drop-back but sent the ball
elsewhere. Quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski immediately offered some insight
to the $84 million guaranteed man .
"In that situation, you might want to give Kyle a chance," Cousins said,
recounting what Stefanski advised. "Even though he looks covered, you have to
throw him the ball. He's open. He can prove you right."
Having Rudolph available for drills with the first-team offense has been a
welcomed bonus for the Vikings, considering he had surgery on his right ankle in
February after playing through pain down the stretch of the season. Rudolph said
he's a couple of weeks ahead of schedule on his rehabilitation.
"We have a new offense, a new system Harrison
Phillips Color Rush Jersey , a new quarterback. I wasn't getting
any better over there by myself, so it's good to be back out there," he
Rudolph is not only the longest-tenured offensive player on the roster, but
he and wide receiver Adam Thielen are the only ones who joined the team before
Mike Zimmer was hired as head coach in 2014. Thielen was on the practice squad
in 2013. In fact, Rudolph, Thielen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs are the only
members of the offense who've been here more than three years.
Rudolph, who will turn 29 on Nov. 9, is coming off the most fruitful two-year
stretch in the NFL. He had 81 catches for 532 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017
and, just as importantly, played in all 16 games for a third straight
He's endured more than his share of injuries going back to his college days
at Notre Dame, and that helped minimize any anxiety that might have come with a
procedure done at this stage of his career. Rudolph counted five surgeries in
the past 10 years.
"It's funny when you sit there: The nurses are getting ready for pre-op, and
the doctors are talking to you. I honestly feel like I'm in the dentist office
getting my teeth cleaned. It's so routine, at this point," Rudolph said. "I
think at times, your family and friends are more worried about it than you
With the skills Cousins has in completing play-action passes and new
offensive coordinator John DeFilippo's penchant for using his tight ends in all
kinds of spots to maximize their matchup advantages with potentially cornerbacks
and safeties Youth Buffalo Bills Jerseys ,
Rudolph is in position for another productive season.
"Obviously, he's had great success with tight ends," Rudolph said. "What he's
able to do with all the playmakers and all of the chess pieces that we have on
offense, it's been a lot of fun to see."
The Bills' defensive front quickly took shape Tuesday, when Star Lotulelei
agreed to sign with Buffalo, and Kyle Williams chose to return for a 13th season
by saying the he never entertained any thought of retiring.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed to The Associated Press that
Lotulelei reached an agreement to sign a five-year contract with the Bills. The
person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the signing the former
Carolina Panthers starter won't become official until the NFL's business year
opens on Wednesday.
The agreement was first reported by ESPN.
A few hours later, the Bills announced agreeing to a one-year, $6 million
deal to re-sign Williams, who revealed his plan all along was to return.
"As eloquently as I can put it, I haven't exhausted myself in pursuit of what
my dream is of playing this game, or playing for this organization and chasing
being a champion," Williams said during a conference call. "Buffalo is my home.
It's where I want to be. It's where I want to win. And I couldn't be more
The moves bulk up Buffalo's defensive front by filling both tackle starting
positions a day before the start of free agency.
Just as important, the Bills retained a steadying presence in their locker
after losing veteran center Eric Wood, who was diagnosed with a career-ending
neck injury in January.
Williams was an unquestioned leader on a patchwork, rebuilding team that
exceeded expectations with a 9-7 record and ended a 17-season playoff drought.
The 34-year-old is so highly regarded Seahawks
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in discussing what the player meant to the team.
"It's hard not to gravitate toward a guy like that, because of who he is as a
person more so than anything," McDermott said of Williams in December. "How
could you not like the way he plays and appreciate that, right?"
Williams returns to his familiar spot in the middle, which he's held since
being selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft. And he'll be playing
alongside the 28-year-old Lotulelei, who takes over after Buffalo traded Marcell
Dareus to Jacksonville in October.
"I'm all for bringing on as many good football players as we can," Williams
said, referring to Lotulelei.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 311 pounds, Lotulelei was a five-year starter with
Carolina after being selected by the Panthers in the first round of the 2013
draft out of Utah.
The native of Tonga is reunited with McDermott, who was Panthers defensive
coordinator before taking over in Buffalo in January 2017. Bills general manager
Brandon Beane is also familiar with Lotulelei and played a role in drafting him
after previously serving as Panthers assistant GM.
Lotulelei has forced two fumbles and has 11 1/2 sacks in 76 career games, and
was voted to the NFL all-rookie team in 2013. His future in Carolina was
uncertain after the Panthers signed defensive tackle Kawann Short to a
five-year, $80 million contract extension last offseason, and also used a
first-round pick for Vernon Butler last year.
Williams is a one-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection. He showed no
signs of slowing last year, with 41 tackles and three sacks in starting all 16
games. Overall, his 43 1/2 sacks are the most by a defensive tackle in franchise
Williams has no expectation of taking on a diminished role after leading
Buffalo's defensive linemen by playing 758 snaps last year.
"I prepare myself to play as many as I possibly can because
mentality-wise http://www.lionsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-sylvester-williams-jersey ,
I feel like we're a better football team when I'm on the field," he said. "I'm
coming back to play. I'm not coming back to say, 'Oh, hey listen, I'll just play
25, 30 snaps a game and let you guys fight over the rest.'"
Buffalo's defensive front seven has numerous needs with starting linebackers
Preston Brown and Ramon Humber eligible to become free agents. The Bills
finished 26th in yards allowed and gave up 140 or more yards rushing eight
times, including a 10-3 loss to Jacksonville in the AFC wild-card playoff
Lotulelei's addition is the latest bold move made by Beane in reshaping
Buffalo's roster since being hired in May to replace Doug Whaley.
Beane has already completed two trades over the past week in dealing
quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland and sending starting offensive tackle
Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati. Buffalo moved up nine spots in the first round by
acquiring the Bengals' selection, 12th overall, as part of the Glenn trade.
The deals continued strengthening Buffalo's bid for selecting one of several
highly regarded quarterback prospects in the first round next month. The Bills
have two picks in each of the first three rounds, including the 22nd
Williams backed the moves.
"It goes back to really believing in and trusting what Brandon and Sean are
doing," Williams said. "I believe in their vision of what they've trying to
build. And so for me, I'm on board with what they're doing."