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Vikings, Tigers show support from the sideline

Green Bay's Tramon Williams signals an incomplete pass after knocking down a pass intended for Charles Johnson of Minnesota. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Green Bay’s Tramon Williams signals an incomplete pass after knocking down a pass intended for Charles Johnson of Minnesota. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — One Albert Lea football player can relate to the impact Kyle Rudolph made in his second game back from the injured reserve list.

On the Vikings’ first play from scrimmage Sunday, Rudolph caught a 23-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater that set Minnesota up four yards shy of midfield.

“Any time you can get the ball in your hands early, it gets you into the game,” Rudolph said. “Especially for me, being out for so long, you want to catch that first ball. It felt good.”

Sam Thompson of Albert Lea breaks contain and runs down the right sideline on Sept. 5 against Austin at Jim Gustafson Field. Thompson suffered a knee injury later in the season but plans to be back for wrestling season. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Sam Thompson of Albert Lea breaks contain and runs down the right sideline on Sept. 5 against Austin at Jim Gustafson Field. Thompson suffered a knee injury later in the season but plans to be back for wrestling season. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Rudolph wasn’t targeted at all last week at Chicago in his first game back from sports hernia surgery. His last catch was at New Orleans in Week 3.

Against Green Bay on Sunday, Rudolph caught three passes for 50 yards, but the Vikings’ fourth-quarter rally fell short when their defense couldn’t stop Eddie Lacy and the Packers from running out the clock during a 24-21 loss at TCF Bank Stadium.

Sam Thompson, a senior captain on the Albert Lea football team experienced a similar situation.

He was forced to watch from the sideline midseason after suffering tears of the lateral meniscus, posterior cruciate ligament, and a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his knee.

“After it happened, I just tried to support the team and do what I could to encourage and lead them,” Thompson said. “It was a big adjustment for me.”

Unlike Rudolph, Thompson was sidelined the rest of the season.

However, just like Rudolph’s light at the end of the tunnel was Sunday, Thompson’s will return to the athletic stage for wrestling season this winter. His goal is to compete at 145 or 152 pounds. Thompson credited Greg Deyak, a physical therapist at Health Reach, with helping him get back on his feet.

“I have to wear a brace for practice now, but I haven’t been in much pain,” Thompson said. “I went to rehab for a month and a half, and it helped a lot.”

Even though he was recovering from injury, Rudolph said it was a necessity to stay involved with the team.

“I went to meetings and practice just like I was playing,” he said. “It was important for me to stay locked in very week. So much changes in our offense week by week, that you get behind if you don’t pay attention.”

Aside from Rudolph, the Vikings played without two other former Pro Bowlers: quarterback Matt Cassel and running back Adrian Peterson.

Cassel was done for the season after breaking multiple bones in his foot during a 20-9 loss at New Orleans in Week 3.

Despite Peterson’s absence, rookie running back Jerik McKinnon said he has been a positive influence.

“Our relationship is good,” McKinnon said. “He’s been like a big brother ever since I got here. I have nothing but great things to say about him. I wish he was here.”

McKinnon was the ninth running back selected in last year’s draft, but he entered Sunday’s game ranked second in rushing yards among rookies with 484 yards and a 4.94 average per carry.

Against the Packers, McKinnon had 54 yards on 15 carries.

Minnesota (4-7 overall) can still get past .500 this season with five games left. Next, the Vikings host Carolina (3-7-1 overall) at noon Sunday. Minnesota is .500 in its last four games. Carolina hasn’t won since beating Chicago 31-24 on Oct. 5. The Panthers are on a five-game losing streak.