MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings will be in Indianapolis on Sunday to take on the Colts, and there will be a familiar face in the Colts’ secondary.
Xavier Rhodes started and made two tackles for the Colts in a 27-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He spent his first seven seasons with the Vikings after being selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He experienced the business side of the NFL first-hand in March, when he was released.
Now, he’ll be giving his teammates tips on how to slow down Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ offense on Sunday. He was one of five secondary players to leave the Vikings after the 2019 season.
“I love Xavier, he’s a great kid, a good competitor. We had a lot of good times together. We worked really close for a number of years. I hope he has a good year and he’s staying safe and healthy,” said Mike Zimmer, who coached Rhodes for his first six seasons.
Rhodes signed a five-year, $70 million extension back in 2017. Much of his time with the Vikings, while at times being a shutdown defensive back, also included inconsistent play, penalties and injuries.
Rhodes told Colts' reporters earlier this week he has no hard feelings against the Vikings.
"It's all love. I was there for seven years. It was a brotherhood when I was there, and it’s still a brotherhood to this day. So it’s going to be good going against those guys," Rhodes said. "When I was practicing against those guys when I was there, we were competing each and every play so it’s going to be the same right there on the field. But I’m going to be able to tackle them this time.”
He started 15 games for Minnesota last season, making 63 tackles, five for a loss and had six passes defended. He’s a three-time Pro Bowl selection, including last season, and was an All-Pro in 2017.
“He’s a physical corner that in the past has played some really good football. He’s got a lot of experience in this league and he’s shut down some guys that are big-name guys and have had a lot of success in this league. Beware, because he’s a great football player,” Vikings receiver Adam Thielen said.
Thielen credited Rhodes for his becoming a star receiver in the NFL. The two competed against each other in practice daily, going back to Thielen’s days on the practice squad.
Thielen is a two-time Pro Bowl pick himself, with 24 receiving touchdowns since 2016.
“I’m excited to see him. He’s a friend of mine and was a fantastic teammate. Honestly he’s probably been a big part of who I am today because he’s challenged me, he’s pushed me, he’s made things very difficult on me and that’s what helps you become a better football player,” Thielen said. “When you have a challenge like that and you’re constantly having to perform at your best and having to get better.”
Cousins said Rhodes was one of the first players to congratulate him when the Vikings beat the Saints in overtime of the NFC Wild Card playoffs last season.
“I have the utmost respect for Xavier. He’s done it for a long time and we always asked a lot of him. When we beat the Saints, I think he was the very first person to hug me in the playoff game, which says something about him as a teammate and a person. It’ll be strange seeing him in blue and white,” Cousins said.
Rhodes is now with the Colts on a one-year, $3 million deal and played in 43 of the 50 defensive snaps last Sunday. His impact remains yet to be seen, but Zimmer said he “did fine” after seeing tape of his first game with Indianapolis.
“I thought he did well. They obviously play a little different scheme than we do, but the things that Xavier was asked to do, he did fine,” Zimmer said.
So how much will Cousins the “Rhodes Closed” slogan? We’ll find out Sunday.