Jennings embracing mentorship role

Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson bring very different assets to the receiving corps, but the seven-year veteran is fully embracing the opportunity to teach the young, raw rookie.

Cordarrelle Patterson didn't hesitate for a bit.

When asked which Viking has been especially helpful in Patterson's transition to the NFL, the answer came quickly and definitively.

"Greg Jennings. Most definitely," Patterson said.

Jennings, the seven-year veteran of the NFL who joined the Vikings via free agency this year, has helped Patterson with "everything," according to the rookie. That includes issues on the field and off.

"Greg is a super leader in that room and really for our whole offense. Cordarrelle I know has taken a bunch of notes both in the meeting room and on the field with relation to how Greg does it," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said.

"That's one way that players learn. Sometimes they learn by seeing it written, or drawn, or on film, but a lot of guys learn by watching someone else do it or watching their coach, if he's young enough, demonstrate. That's an essential part of learning, watching somebody else do it."

It isn't by accident or happenstance that Jennings is mentoring Patterson. That's been part of the plan all along, even before the Vikings knew for sure that Patterson would be part of their team.

The organization puts a lot of trust in receivers coach George Stewart, but Stewart knew that Patterson was inexperienced with the finer points of being a receiver and Patterson was entering the NFL with questions about his work ethic. The Vikings say they haven't seen any hint of that, but they knew a peer for Patterson would be a good thing.

"Before we even took him in the draft, coach Stew … came to me and said, ‘Greg, we're looking to get this guy. And there's some things that they say about him, that's why we have you here. Take this guy under your wing, show him the ropes, and bring him up to speed,'" Jennings said. "He gets here, I look at him, we work, I'm like, ‘What are they talking about?' This kid, he's ready to work. No one knows the work ethic or the work adjustment that you have to make until you're in the work environment. So for him, it was getting acclimated and accustomed to the professional realm of how we work and starting to do that. He's picked up the plays."

Their skills are far different, almost complementary. Patterson has the height, speed and hands, but has no NFL experience and only one year at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. Jennings has built a strong career to date without the elite measurables. He is about three inches shorter, 10 pounds lighter and not as fast as Patterson. But Jennings become a Pro Bowl player with his attention to detail and detailed route-running.

Three of Jennings' seven seasons have resulted in at least 1,100 yards receiving, and another two have produced at least 900 yards each. But this year, his first with the Vikings, gives him another opportunity to mentor a younger receiver.

"The progression, the way he's made the progression, he's made it easy," Jennings said. "You get a young guy who's willing to work, who's willing to sponge, but they work at their craft, they make it so much easier. For me as an older guy, a vet that's been through it, you see a guy like that who's working, working hard to get better week in and week out, seeing him make those jumps, it makes you feel good, but at the same time, it's like, OK, I've got to add some of what he's doing in my game. I've got to sponge off what he has, too. It's been a give and take relationship."

Jenning said he would like to have Patterson's speed, his ability to go up for the ball and his physicality at the line of scrimmage. He said he asks Patterson to show him how he makes some of his athletic movements.

Those are some of the same things that have impressed Musgrave.

"He's definitely gifted with his size and his speed. He's really asserting himself in the meeting room, trying to learn our system," Musgrave said.

When that happens – "less thinking, more reacting," Musgrave said – then Patterson can work himself into a regular contributing role.

"I think it's a process. It takes turns or repetitions and we're trying to provide him as many turns as we can without wearing him out," Musgrave said.

Having Jennings available for Patterson should only help.

"On and off the field, I respect him," Patterson said. "He gives me all he's got and I'm going to give him all I've got."

Musgrave said the Jennings-Patterson relationship is a bit rare. Jennings appears to fully embrace the opportunity to mentor a gifted receiver like the Vikings rookie.

"I would imagine," Musgrave said, "and I wouldn't speculate who it was, but somebody probably took (Jennings) under their respective wing in Green Bay and he's returning the favor to the next generation."

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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