Wide receiver Charles Johnson has started the last two weeks for the Vikings instead of Cordarrelle Patterson, who hasn’t started the last three weeks. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Johnson is the starter now.
“I expect (Patterson) to play and play like he has. C.J. is playing at a high level. C.J. is the starter at X,” Turner said Thursday, referring to Johnson. “That’s the position that Cordarrelle plays, so we’re going to do what we can to get some opportunities to play there, but C.J. is playing at a really high level right now.”
Last week against the Carolina Panthers, Patterson played only three offensive snaps – none in the first half – but both Turner and head coach Mike Zimmer said Patterson’s missed practice time last week contributed to Patterson’s decreased playing time. Patterson missed meetings on Monday and practices on Wednesday and Thursday, Turner said.
“It’s always frustrating not playing,” Patterson said. “Of course I want to play more, but the big focus on each week is we just need to win. We won last week, I didn’t play that much, so that’s good for us. We all get frustrated. Not just for me. Every receiver, they want the ball and they want to play and our opportunities, they get low sometimes. You’ve just got to be the better person, just don’t take it too personally, just know this is a business decision they have with everything that’s going on around here.”
Said Turner: “I think anyone that is in a situation where he didn’t play last week would be frustrated, but Cordarrelle knows he wasn’t here all week. He was out of town at a funeral. It’s hard to get ready. We had a totally different game plan for Carolina. Then you combine it with blocking two punts in the first half and not really having the ball.”
In the last three weeks, Johnson has been targeted 22 times by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and has 11 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown.
“I worked hard to get where I’m at,” Johnson said. “I was home with injuries my first year and, my ability, I know what I can do on and off the field.
“It’s cool. I’m not a guy who really cares too much about fame or anything like that. I just like to go out here and play football. That’s all I like to do is play, and it does feel good to be healthy and actually get out here and be able to play.”
After being drafted 216th overall by the Packers in 2013, Johnson’s career started on their practice squad. He was signed to the Cleveland Browns active roster last year before a medical check revealed he needed knee surgery. He started 2014 on the Browns’ practice squad before the Vikings signed him on Sept. 20.
While Johnson’s time on the field has increased dramatically, Patterson’s has fallen. He has been targeted only six times in the last three weeks, catching four passes for 42 yards.
Turner said Patterson, drafted 29th overall in 2013, will still be involved in the game plan.
“I don’t think he’s gone anywhere. We need to roll him in there and do the things that we’ve done throughout,” Turner said. “He’s had some bad luck. He’s had some situations where he’s been open and Teddy threw it somewhere else and he could have had big plays. He’s obviously had some situations when he’s been open and we missed him. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. But he’s doing the things we need him to do and he had an outstanding day of practice yesterday and I see him being a big-time player in this offense as we go forward.”