Patterson excites Vikings as returner, too

The Vikings are looking for a new kick returner and they may have one in rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. His return ability is one reason they gave up so much to draft Patterson.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer joked that he pulled a hamstring when his Minnesota Vikings drafted receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round.

Patterson could be causing pulled hamstrings on the field as much as headaches in the film room if he lives up to his potential as a kickoff returner.

Patterson is best known for his receiving skills, a talent that is equally dynamic but perhaps will take longer to refine. He embraces the chance to be a kickoff returner, too.

"If you like offense, you've got to like special teams. I just like getting the extra ball in my hands, and when I get the ball in my hands, I just feel special with it," Patterson said.

That's because in some ways he is like Percy Harvin. They have different body types, different moves that make them elusive, and different rates of getting up to full speed, but Patterson has some of that same open-field elusiveness that Harvin thrived on while becoming one of the league's most dangerous kick returners last year when healthy.

Patterson sees the differences in style between himself and Harvin and makes it clear.

"I'm not Percy. I'm Cordarrelle Patterson. I don't listen to nothing like that, I only need to be myself," Patterson said.

That approach will serve him well because, in many ways, he isn't Harvin. Yet Patterson shows the potential be a productive returner from the outset.

"You know, he is so talented and just a great athlete. I think he's done a great job on just working on some of the little things – keeping his elbows tighter, keeping his hands up, keeping his hands away from his body a little bit – just some of the smaller details," Priefer said. "I think he's more comfortable catching kickoffs right now than punts, like a lot of young guys, but we're making progress in both phases."

Last year at the University of Tennessee, his only season at the FBS school, Patterson averaged 28 yards on 24 kickoff returns. For his entire college career, including two seasons at Hutchinson Community college, he averaged 35.6 yards on 42 kickoff returns.

Priefer said anytime he was in draft meetings with the personnel department he would remind the decision-makers of Patterson's skills as a returner.

"Our personnel people do a great job. We have plenty of input, at least of our opinion and what we thought with our grades. I love the way we do things here and we have a voice," Priefer said. "Obviously Rick (Spielman) has to make that final call, but we knew that (Patterson) and Tavon Austin were the two top returners coming out of the draft. We knew Tavon would be gone early so having Cordarrelle where he was and how we picked him and how everything transpired, it was a pretty exciting night for us."

Priefer said the Vikings don't want to overload a rookie by asking too much of him, and since Patterson is immersed in trying to learn the offense, too, coaches will be cognizant of the many challenges he faces. Patterson doesn't want to make any predictions either about his potential as a kick return.

He is confident but hesitant to prematurely predict any success.

"I can't say I'm contributing to the return game and then when the season comes, I won't be back there," he said. "I'm just waiting on that moment."

Priefer sure seems ready to give Patterson the opportunity to return kickoffs. That's one of the reasons he was so happy when the Vikings traded second-, third, fourth- and seventh-round picks to move back into the first round and draft Patterson 29th overall.

"I pulled a hamstring running down the hallway. No, I'm just kidding, I was very happy," Priefer said of his reaction to the selection. "Just looking at him on tape, having the ability to be both a punt and kickoff returner, obviously what he brings to our offense, just as a football team, I was very happy with that pick. I was surprised we made the move, but I was happy we made the move. It was a great move by Rick (Spielman) and Leslie (Frazier) and I'm fired up we did it.

"… You don't want to overload any rookie because I know he'll contribute on offense as well, but I think the sky is the limit for this young athlete, I really do."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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