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INDIANAPOLIS — When TE Kyle Rudolph suffered a season-ending hamstring tear in October, he didn't know what the future held. In the midst of his junior season at Notre Dame, Rudolph wasn't sure if he would be able to follow through on his desire to declare for the 2011 NFL draft, as months of rehab were ahead of him.
As soon as he found out that he'd make a full recovery, though, the decision became easy: He was going pro.
Rudolph, PFW's No. 1-ranked tight end in this year's draft, said he was only 75-80 percent right now and will not participate in any physical activities at this week's NFL Scouting Combine. However, he expects to be a full go for Notre Dame's pro day on April 7. It will be then that he tries to prove to teams that he's the total package.
"My greatest strength is the ability to be a complete tight end," said Rudolph on Friday. "A tight end that can hold the point and block at the line of scrimmage, as well as a tight end that can get down the field and catch balls. I'm a tight end that can play on all downs.
"... I think it's something that's rare. You don't see many guys that are able to play first down, second down and third down. That's my goal every day when I'm working: I want to be an all-down tight end."
Rudolph, who measured in at an imposing 6-6, 259 pounds, said that while he enjoyed making an important catch, he also felt satisfaction every time he laid out a defender with a crushing block. It's that versatility that could make him a first-round pick come April.
While Rudolph models his game after another first-rounder, Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez, he compares his skills to a different pro star.
"I feel like Jason Witten," he said. "... (He's) a guy that can hold the point, is a great blocker, but at the same time he makes huge plays in the passing game."
Rudolph follows in a line of stellar Fighting Irish tight ends, most recently John Carlson, a second-round pick of the Seahawks in 2008. Rudolph spent a lot of time with Carlson during his visits to N.D. and is fond of the Seattle standout.
"It's a great compliment whenever someone compares me to John Carlson," said Rudolph, "because he was so successful at Notre Dame and has been successful in the NFL. And he does it the right way."
While Rudolph's week at the Combine will be all about impressing teams in interviews, he isn't afraid that his hamstring injury will hurt his stock. In fact, he's welcoming all comers to check him out for themselves.
"Let them do whatever they want with my leg, because it's 100 percent healed and it feels good."