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Rudolph says he's the best tight end in the NFL

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Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph didn't shy away when asked Wednesday who the best tight end in the NFL is.

"Me," Rudolph told the Pioneer Press.

"There's a ton of talented tight ends in our game," Rudolph added. "You have guys that play at a high level, like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten and Vernon Davis. But I would put myself up there with them.

"I feel as a tight end, it's extremely important to be a guy that can contribute in the running game and also in the passing game."

An article at NFL.com included phrases like "stop giggling" and "we wouldn't speak Rudolph's name in the same breath as the players he mentioned."

Rudolph has helped pave rushing lanes for running back Adrian Peterson, but his receiving numbers don't come close to some of the NFL's premiere tight ends.

Since entering the league as a rookie in 2011, Rudolph has 109 receptions for 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns. He finished the 2012 season with nine touchdowns, tied for the league lead among tight ends. In comparison, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham had 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns last season alone. He's totaled 36 touchdowns over the last three years.

A broken foot cut Rudolph's most recent season to eight games. He told the Pioneer Press that his foot is doing well and he's hoping the presence of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner will help him develop into an even better player.

"If you follow his coaching career, all the places he's been, the tight end has been really important in his offense," Rudolph said of Turner. "I'm looking forward to being a part of that. ... My goal every year is to be the best tight end in the NFL."

John Holler of Viking Update quipped that Rudolph has "clearly never" seen Graham play if he thinks he's the best tight end in the NFL, but he also added that, "with Turner calling the plays, it may only be a matter of time before Rudolph is viewed among the elite tight ends in the game."

Rudolph also said he wants to finish his career with the Vikings. He has one-year remaining on his contract.

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