By PAT LEONARD
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |
JUL 01, 2021 AT 7:00 AM
Kyle Rudolph will be healthy and ready to play football this fall. So the Giants can hope that his on-field impact will mirror his off-field influence.
Rudolph, 31, was named this week to the board of directors for GENYOUth, a national nonprofit that creates healthier school communities.
The three-time NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee told the Daily News on Wednesday that “it means a lot” because he has been so “hands on” with the organization’s initiatives.
That includes the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, which provides healthier meals across more than 73,000 schools nationwide, and the Taste of the NFL Super Bowl event, which raises funds to fight hunger and now calls GENYOUth its official charitable partner.
GENYOUth even launched an emergency school meal delivery fund to continue reaching disadvantaged students at more than 10,000 schools at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The bottom line is it all comes back to kids, specifically making sure these kids have the opportunity to have meals at school,” Rudolph said on the phone Wednesday. “And meals being the ultimate priority the last 14-16 months with everyone doing remote learning. So being a part of their mission, being involved with kids, it means the world to me. Anytime I can help kids’ lives, I’m all for it.”
On the field, meanwhile, Rudolph assured the News on Wednesday that he “won’t miss any football” due to offseason foot surgery — a welcome update on a key piece in the Giants’ 2021 free agent spending spree.
Kyle Rudolph says he’ll be ready to go for the Giants at the start of the season despite undergoing offseason foot surgery. (Bruce Kluckhohn)
Rudolph had promised a full recovery back in March, as well. But then the timing of his surgery and the status of his rehab were unclear. He sat out spring OTAs and minicamp and head coach Joe Judge remained noncommittal on Rudolph’s progress.
Rudolph was only seen standing on the sideline for parts of minicamp tossing a football with Daniel Jones.
So on Wednesday, Rudolph clarified that he had the surgery back in Minnesota “right after I was here [in New Jersey] to sign my contract” in late March.
He had the surgery to correct an injury caught by the Giants’ doctors during his physical exam. The team honored its initial contract offer of a two-year deal worth up to $14 million despite catching the injury later.
“As far as football goes, I was extremely fortunate that the Giants organization and everyone involved [caught it], and how they were able to handle my situation, that I won’t miss any football,” Rudolph said. “At this point it’s about taking each day and taking that opportunity to not only get myself healthy but get myself better. It’s one thing to get and be healthy, it’s another to be ready to go and play in an NFL game. So I’m taking that day by day.”
Rudolph did not commit to being on the field for the start of training camp, but he insisted that he’ll follow whatever plan is in place to get him to the Sept. 12 opener against Denver.
“I want to do everything to make sure I’m getting better every single day, and whatever that is is up to Joe, [offensive coordinator] Jason [Garrett], [director of rehabilitation] Leigh [Weiss] and everybody else involved,” Rudolph said.
Answering so many injury questions is odd for Rudolph, known for his durability, having played in 92 of the Minnesota Vikings’ 96 regular season games since the start of the 2015 season. But he knows this situation could have been a lot worse if the Giants hadn’t caught it in March.
“I had no symptoms. I didn’t feel anything,” Rudolph said. “I felt completely fine coming out of last season. After I rehabbed [a foot injury during the 2020 season], I was anticipating coming back for the last game of the year and then playing through the playoffs. Unfortunately that didn’t work out for us as a team last year in Minnesota, so there were no playoffs.”
“Then I continued with my offseason as if I was completely healthy,” he added. “So I was extremely fortunate the Giants medical staff was able to find this in March and it isn’t something where I came back here all fired up for OTAs in June and then hurt myself and put myself at risk for missing football games.”
A healthy Rudolph brings a two-time Pro Bowler with 48 career regular season TD catches to hopefully improve a poor Giants red zone offense.
Off the field, Rudolph and his wife Jordan are extremely involved in charities even beyond GENYOUth, including the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, where they built “Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone,” a space for patients and siblings to escape, enjoy and be kids.
All the Rudolphs participate, including twin daughters Andersyn and Finley, 4, with son Henry, 2, in tow, and a fourth (a boy) on the way.
“We always involve them in the charity,” Rudolph said. “It’s extremely important to us to teach our kids what it means to give back.”
Rudolph’s nomination to the GENYOUth board with CEO Alexis Glick and chairman Thomas Gallagher even drew the rare direct praise of another board member Rudolph knows well: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“During his 10 seasons in the NFL, Kyle Rudolph has set himself apart on and off the field,” Goodell said in a statement. “His blend of compassion, commitment, and loyalty make him a hero among kids, especially those who are ill. Last year, he connected with a young cancer patient in the hospital. The boy told his parents that he wants to grow up and play in the NFL so he can bring his teammates to a children’s hospital and make patients smile, just like Kyle. That moment personifies Kyle. He will be an outstanding new board member for GENYOUth.”