When the Vikings drafted Cordarrelle Patterson last April, they knew they were getting a raw talent. With just one year of major college football experience, it was a given that it would take time for Patterson to assimilate into the pro game, but one thing they knew they could get out of him was a dynamic presence in the kick return game that was lost with the offseason trade of Percy Harvin.
Patterson has made the most of that opportunity and was rewarded Wednesday by being named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season. His 109-yard kickoff return broke the old record shared by three players at 108 yards and has permanently placed Patterson's name in the all-time NFL record books because he has set a mark that can only be tied in the future, not surpassed.
Patterson has made the most of his limited opportunities and said being acknowledged by his peers for his achievement is gratifying.
"It was a great feeling," Patterson said. "The second time was just as good as the first time. Hopefully, there are many more to come. I hope I can break the record for most weeks winning it."
In less than half a season, Patterson has joined Jacoby Jones and Ed Reed as the only players with two plays of 105 yards or more in their careers. Patterson's 109-yard kickoff return was augmented by returns of 51 and 30 yards, giving him 228 total return yards against the Packers – 83 yards more than the Vikings offense gained against Green Bay.
Patterson has seen his role in the offense increase incrementally because, thanks to his league-leading kickoff return average, he has proved he can be a difference-maker on the field. But he was aware from Day One that his first assignment was going to be a dynamic addition as a kick returner. While his role in the offense remains relatively minor, his focus has been on helping the team in the role he was selected to play when he was drafted.
"The plan was to get me in here and work on my special teams a lot – to see how fast I could come in (and contribute) on special teams," Patterson said. "If I'm going to tell (the coaches) you want more touches, when you get your opportunities, you have to make the most of it."
So far, Patterson has played in 23 percent of the offensive snaps, but the only time someone other than him has returned a kick is when teams have tried to kick away from him.
Given his impact on the game in a limited role, head coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged that he and Patterson have had conversations about getting him more involved in the offense. He's still behind Jerome Simpson on the offensive depth chart, but head coach Leslie Frazier said Patterson has been in his ear to give him more of an opportunity.
"Cordarrelle said the same things," said Frazier when asked about his potential to impact the offense. "We're continually bringing him in on offense and we're going to have some (play packages) for him this week as well. We'll just keep bringing him along. He's done a good job whenever he's been on the field on offense. He made some nice plays in the game on Sunday night, so we've just got to keep bringing him along."
Having won the Special Teams Player of the Week twice in his first seven career games, it won't be surprising if teams start to adjust how they approach kickoffs – kicking the ball directionally or shorter with more height to get the coverage team closer to him when he gets his hands on the ball. Whether teams make those adjustments or continue to try to kick the ball out of the end zone for touchbacks, if Patterson gets his hands on the ball in the field of play, he expects to take it to the house.
"If they kick shorter, all that means is I have to come up closer," Patterson said. "I start at 109 (yards from the other end zone) and make sure my feet are planted right there and make sure I don't go out of bounds and make sure it's a returnable ball.
"If they kick me the ball, good luck to them," Patterson said. "I've got great guys blocking for me and we're expecting to return some more of them this season."
Patterson's accomplishments have been overshadowed by the Vikings' miserable start to the 2013 season, but he is convinced the team can turn things around and start the building process in the second half of this season, dismissing the notion that the Vikings are what their record says they are.
"We've got a lot of the season left," he said. "We can't look back at what has happened in the past. We have to get ready for the future."
The future, no doubt, will include what the Vikings hope will be more electrifying kick returns that, while not providing the spark for the Vikings to win consistently yet, may be the catalyst to games in the season's final two months.
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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