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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Rookie MyCole Pruitt knows the loss of TE Rhett Ellison could mean added responsibility

By Derek Wetmore

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – The latest ‘next man up’ for the Vikings will be rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt, who expects to have an increased role in the offense with the loss of valuable blocker Rhett Ellison for the remainder of the season.

There’s a cliché in the NFL that whenever somebody gets hurt, his back up should be expected to step right in and fill his shoes without skipping a beat. “Next man up,” is the oft-repeated refrain. It’s understandable on its surface – nobody wants to hear about injuries as an excuse for why a team didn’t perform well, in large part because injuries in the NFL are a fact of life.

The unspoken part of that line of thinking, though, is that there’s a reason the player was a backup in the first place.

As a rookie, Pruitt has already showed some skills that Ellison, a four-year NFL veteran, might not have. Pruitt’s better at catching passes and might be more offensively inclined than the man he’s replacing. But Ellison, whose torn patellar tendon required surgery that ended his year with the Vikings, was a standout in blocking situations.

All year, the Vikings have needed to find ways to help out rookie right tackle T.J. Clemmings, and two-tight end sets can be a way to accomplish that.

Then, amid a string of injuries at Lambeau Field when the Vikings played the Packers for the NFC North division title, Ellison went down, clutching his knee. He went to the trainer’s table on the sideline and almost immediately was ruled out to return for the game.

“Right when he went down, I saw how he was holding his knee,” Pruitt said, knowing it would mean an added opportunity for him, but also recognizing the all-too-frequent reality of sudden changes spurred by injury in the NFL. “I felt really bad for the guy because he’s a great guy and he would give anything to be out there. … I’m just ready to step up and do whatever coach asks me to do.”

He said the biggest area he’s focused on this week is helping his quarterback stay upright.

“In the pass blocking game,” Pruitt said, “[Ellison] is very technique-sound with everything he does and I want to be able to implement some of those techniques as well.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer alluded to Pruitt’s role this week by saying that he’s probably going to have to “do some dirty work.”

He’s also well aware that the Vikings offense revolves around star running back Adrian Peterson, and so run blocking will be critical to replacing Ellison’s duties. Pruitt said he feels he’s improved during his first year at run blocking, but noted that he can always get better.

“And once again, Rhett excels at that [run blocking],” he said. “That’s one thing I’m working on this week: play with great technique and have my pad level low and be able to block these guys all day on Sunday.”

Pruitt was the target of a downfield pass in Minnesota’s first offensive drive against Green Bay. The pass fell incomplete, but it serves as a reminder that even with an increased workload and more blocking responsibilities, Pruitt could chip in in the passing game as a pass-catcher, as well.

“As a tight end you’ve got to be ready to do both [block and catch passes], that’s just part of the job description,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt, who played five years of college football, hasn’t been in the playoffs since his junior year of high school in Missouri, he said.

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity and I’ve been ready,” Pruitt said this week. “Just studying what Rhett does, what he brings to the game, and [I’ll] try to bring some of what he brings into my game. So I feel like I’m ready for the challenge.”

The post Rookie MyCole Pruitt knows the loss of TE Rhett Ellison could mean added responsibility appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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