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September 1, 2010
There may be different meanings of "100 percent" at Notre Dame.
Regardless, whether Kyle Rudolph is at that figure following a training camp slowed by a sore hamstring or just approaching it, Notre Dame's potential All-American tight end is closer to full go than he's been since summer.
Both Rudolph and head coach Brian Kelly agree the junior is all the way back physically. The difference of opinion comes in how close Rudolph is to full throttle mentally. After Tuesday's workout, neither felt Rudolph was there. After Wednesday the coach still wasn't so sure, but Rudolph gave himself full clearance under the helmet.
"I would argue with him and say I'm 100 percent mentally now to where today I could just run around," Rudolph said. "I wasn't thinking about anything, I was just going out there and playing.
"Today for me was a great day as far as being able to forget about my leg and go out and play."
As much as Kelly likes to joke that Rudolph's absence opened the door for some of Notre Dame's other tight ends to step up, notably sophomore Tyler Eifert, the position needs its starter at full go. Mike Ragone missed practice with an inner ear infection, opening the door for Alex Welch with the reserves.
But come Saturday it will be Rudolph's job to pick up where Notre Dame left off the last time it played Purdue, a game that essentially ended with his two-yard touchdown catch from Jimmy Clausen on fourth down with 25 seconds remaining. For how much that play played on endless loop during the run-up to the NFL draft as part of Clausen's bio, Rudolph hasn't seen any royalties from his former teammate.
"Maybe that will come someday," Rudolph laughed. "It was a great throw in his opinion."
That might be the first bit of levity surrounding Rudolph since training camp kicked off in early August, with the former five-star recruit immediately slowed by the hamstring he tweaked in summer workouts. Despite missing plenty of work in the past month, Rudolph stayed close to strength and conditioning coordinator Paul Longo, which meant getting back into the lineup didn't mean getting back up to speed.
Rudolph said his stamina stayed despite missing time, with the adjustment more to taking hits and delivering them.
"We do not bring a player back and run him with our team unless there's been a conditioning element that gives him to us," Kelly said. "It makes no sense. You don't bring a guy up and he can take three reps. His conditioning element is pretty good. Enough to play on Saturday."