Cordarrelle Patterson's rookie year for the Minnesota Vikings produced plenty of reasons for him to feel confident and satisfied.
Two touchdowns and a league-leading 32.4-yard average per kickoff return. Over the last eight games, a total of 479 yards and seven scores from scrimmage. A rising profile around town, including ceremonial first-pitch duty at a recent Twins game.
The flashy first-round draft pick has brought some perspective and humility with him into his second NFL season.
"I don't think my work ethic was good enough last year," Patterson said, adding: "I think I was kind of bad last year. This year will be way better."
After only one season of major college action at Tennessee, Patterson was a raw talent, and his playing time early on was limited. Had he entered the NFL more polished, he probably would have been long gone before the Vikings traded up to get him with the 29th overall selection.
Now Patterson has yet another playbook to absorb under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, but he has embraced the knowledge factor of his job, declaring that his primary offseason focus.
"I want to learn everything this year," Patterson said, noting his interest in broadening his skill set to be able to grasp all of the wide receiver positions: "if someone goes down, I can be that guy."
Patterson also took offseason classes at Tennessee with the goal of finishing his degree in communications. This week's minicamp will prevent him from taking the final exam in a science class there, so he has decided to switch his moonlight studies next year to the University of Minnesota to prevent such absences.
"Football can't last forever. I watched a movie last night. Dude only played two years in the league, you know, and he was done. He was saying to himself he had nothing to lean on," Patterson said. "Only thing he knew was football. I don't want to be that guy. This year, I could get hurt or something. I don't want to jinx myself. I just want to have something to do after football."
Perhaps as a designer.
"I like fashion. I like style," he said Wednesday before practice, looking relaxed and carefree, just like any 23-year-old trying to figure out his life calling but not sounding a bit worried about it.
Except Patterson is no ordinary person, with the potential to flourish into an NFL star. Turner's offense in Cleveland last year helped Josh Gordon rack up 1,646 yards receiving in 14 games without a settled quarterback. Patterson and Gordon spoke at the Pro Bowl about the possibilities.
"He was telling me, ‘My coach is going to get you the football. Not just you. Everybody on your team. Running back, tight end, everybody is going to get the ball,'" Patterson said.
As for this increased attention to detail and effort, quarterback Christian Ponder said he has seen a difference.
"He's been working his butt off these past three weeks," Ponder said. "He's been asking a lot of questions with us, trying to put in more time to study. He knows this is a lot of offense and he's going to be a key part of it, so he's trying to do the best he can to gain knowledge of what he's doing and so far he's done a great job."
The whole offense will have a new look under Turner, even if the entire starting lineup could essentially be the same as last year.
"He's going to pull out every ounce of what you have to offer and if it's not what he's looking for, I doubt you'll get used," wide receiver Greg Jennings said.
Patterson is sure to be used often. He's been busy making sure he'll make the most of those opportunities.
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Patterson: ‘My work ethic wasn't good enough'
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