Vikings rookies get very varied opportunities

The Vikings' three first-round draft picks all had very different playing time in the season opener. One was on the field 88 percent of the time for his main role, one 52 percent and the last only 9 percent. They gave their thoughts on their regular-season debuts.

When the Vikings drafted three rookies in the first round of April's draft, it was clear that big things were expected from all three. While their degree of playing time differed greatly, all three first-rounders – Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson – had their own impact on Sunday's game that is expected to expand as the season progresses.

It was the middle of the three picks that had the biggest role last week against the Lions. Rhodes was on the field for 70 or 80 defensive plays and often drew the assignment of covering Calvin Johnson. Leading up to the game, Rhodes was looking forward to the challenge. The first element of that was getting over the intimidation factor.

"I had never seen him before and I knew he was big, but you don't know how big until you line up opposite him," Rhodes said. "He was big and physical, but that's what you expect for when you go up against the best. I wanted a challenge and they don't get much bigger than Calvin Johnson."

Rhodes covered Johnson as often as fellow cornerback Chris Cook, which is a lot to ask of a rookie in his first NFL game. He gave himself a critique that wasm't overly glowing, but felt he made strides in his first NFL game.

"I thought I did pretty good," Rhodes said. "There are a lot of things that I can improve on, little mistakes that you make that you can correct and improve on. It doesn't get any easier as you go along. Everybody has good receivers. Chicago has Brandon Marshall this week and he's one of the best in the game. You can dwell on what you've done. You have to keep looking forward at who is next up."

Patterson was the opposite end of the spectrum. On the field for only a handful of offensive plays and on the kick return team, his role in his first game was minimal. He was philosophical about his lack of playing time, but expects to see it increase.

"Everyone on the team wants to do whatever we can to help us win, whether that's the starters, the guys coming off the bench, the special teams guys, whoever," Patterson said. "I didn't get a lot of time out there, but I that wasn't my decision. When the coaches think I can help us, I'll be out there and, when I get my chance, I'll be ready for it."

Patterson may be learning more about the mental aspect of the game that goes along with the physical. It was thought he would see a lot more playing time than he did in his first game, but he isn't getting frustrated. He's getting motivated from his lack of playing time.

"Whether or not you're playing, you have to be ready because you never know when you're going to get called," Patterson said. "The worst thing you can do is not be ready when you get your chance. I'm preparing like I'm going to be out on the field every play. If I'm not out there, I'm getting myself ready so I can play at a high level when the opportunity comes."

In the middle of the three rookies was Floyd, the first draft selection at No. 23 overall. With Kevin Williams out with a knee injury, Floyd saw action on more than half the plays for the defense and was happy to be back with his teammates after missing two preseason games with his own knee injury.

"The hardest part was being away from practice while my knee was getting better," Floyd said. "Getting that first game was big because I love playing the game and was happy to get my chance."

Asked if conditioning was an issue at all, Floyd put those questions to rest quickly.

"Not at all," Floyd said. "We had a rotation, but I was ready to go back out there every time I came to the sideline. I was so happy to be out there; I was ready to go on every play."

It was a very different NFL debut for all three of the Vikings' first-round rookies. Rhodes saw a ton of action, Patterson saw almost none and Floyd fell in between. But all of them are confident they can be part of the solution for success – both short-term and long-term.

"We all want to make a contribution," Rhodes said. "We're cheering for each other to do well and I think all three of us will be able to help the Vikings win games. We've got a lot of talent here and we just want to be part of that and make the plays that help us win."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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