Patterson on verge of return records

Cordarrelle Patterson had no idea he ranked so high in NFL history among kick returns. He called it an "honor," but you might be surprised at what he says is his best asset as a returner.

As shoppers make their way to stores for returns and exchanges following Christmas, the Vikings have no designs on exchanging their return man.

Cordarrelle Patterson is having quite the season, record-setting in fact.

He needs only four more yards to break the team's all-time record for kickoff return yards (1,345 by Buster Rhymes in 1985) and already leads the league with a 33.6-yard average and two touchdowns on returns. He is also the only player in the NFL with touchdowns receiving (three), rushing (two) and on kick returns (two).

NFL history also beckons. Patterson is in second place for kickoff return average since the AFL-NFL merger, trailing only Baltimore's Jim Duncan, who had a 35.4-yard return average in 1970. Patterson is at 33.6 yards with one game to go.

"I really didn't know that," Patterson said when asked about it this week. "It's nothing that you can plan for throughout the year, trying to be second, first, third. This is my first time. It's a good honor, but there's nothing I can do about it. I didn't try to make that happen. It's here now, but it's good."

Of the top 10 in average in a season for kickoff returns in NFL history, Patterson easily has the most returns (40) and yardage (1,342). The next highest among the leaders in return average is San Francisco's Abe Woodson in 1963 with 29 returns and 935 yards. In other words, Patterson's average has been proven with more returns among the leaders in average.

Patterson is already second in NFL history for highest return average among rookies. Travis Williams, the overall leader for average in a season, easily leads the rookie category with a 41.06-yard average with the Green Bay Packers in 1967, but Patterson is on track to take the rookie title since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The third spot in NFL history by rookies is held by Green Bay's Tom Moore – a 33.08-yard average in 1960.

"You don't think about anything like that. You come in here as a rookie and you have so much going on in your mind that you don't pay attention," Patterson said. "You've just got to come in, just learn the playbook and just play your role – whatever coach wants you to do, just do that. You can't say you're going to do this and (then) you don't do it and get shot down. I don't really set any goals."

But even without goal-setting, Patterson is approach record-setting.

One more return for a touchdown would put him in a tie for third place all-time with the most kickoff return touchdowns in a season. Two players – Williams (1967) and Chicago's Cecil Turner (1970) – had four apiece. Williams was only player to have four in his rookie season, so a return touchdown in the season finale would put Patterson in a second-place tie among rookies.

If he could maintain his return average throughout his career and finish with at least 75 returns to qualify, he would become the league's all-time kick return leader. That distinction is currently held by Gale Sayers – a 30.56-yard average with the Chicago Bears on 91 returns.

Patterson said no matter how his career progresses on offense, he wants to continue returning kicks.

"Of course. That's good to be back there, have kickers that are scared to kick you the ball and get the ball at 40. To be a threat back there, that's a good thing to have and a good quality," he said. "I love being back there. However many years God blesses me to play this game, I know I'm going to be back there."

Patterson has the speed to break a return for a touchdown, as he showed with his 105- and NFL-record 109-kickoff returns. But he believes there is another asset that has served even more in his quest for kick-return greatness.

"Vision. You've got to have great vision," he said. "It's not about how fast you are and how smart you are. If you've got good vision – you can see it and it's going to be there. I try to see things and try to picture it out and visualize."

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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