With his starting job snatched from him during his second season in the NFL, Cordarrelle Patterson called the upcoming months the most important in his life.
The Minnesota Vikings receiver had a promising rookie season, making the Pro Bowl as a kick returner and being named to the Associated Press All-Pro first team. He set the franchise record with 1,393 kick return yards on 43 returns, including two for touchdowns, and a 32.4-yard return average. All of those numbers led the NFL, and the 32.4-yard kick-return average is fourth-highest in the NFL since the 1970 merger and highest since 1985. His 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the longest in NFL history. As a receiver, he caught 45 passes for 469 yards and added 158 rushing yards.
But his second season went off the rails. He struggled to develop consistency as a receiver in his route-running and after nine weeks lost his starting job to Charles Johnson, who didn’t even start the season on the Vikings roster. A month after the season ended, the reality of the situation had set in with Patterson.
“This is going to be the most important offseason in my whole life coming off a season like that, coming from your rookie year where everybody is expecting big things and having that sophomore slump,” Patterson said. “This offseason is going to be the best, and I feel like next year I’m going to come in stronger, faster and quicker than I did in any other year.”
Patterson led the Vikings in receptions in only game and in receiving yards only twice during the 2014 season. Still, multi-dimensional threat had the longest run of the season for the Vikings (a 67-yard touchdown in the season opener) and two of the seven longest runs on the team, but he finished fourth on the team in receptions (33) and yards (384), with Johnson’s 475 receiving yards outdistancing Patterson despite 72 fewer snaps.
Patterson has an easy-going spirit about him, which leads many to interpret him as being aloof, but those who know him say his mistakes really do bother him and stick with him. However, he admitted he was “sleeping” at times in 2014 and he hopes to change that in an all-important third season.
“It’s always about focus. It’s what you put into it and that’s what you get out of it. Last year I felt like I was sleeping a little bit,” he said. “I ain’t had that much fun like I did my rookie year and kind of backed down on a lot of things. This offseason is just very important to me. I can’t wait for the season to get here. I’ve been thinking about this moment since the last snap of the regular season.”
Patterson is getting together with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and others in the receiving and tight end corps in California for a few weeks, but there is another opportunity for him to improve.
At his season-ending news conference, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced that he had an offseason plan for Patterson, wanting him to get together with a mentor of sorts to help him with on- and off-field life in the NFL. Zimmer declined to reveal who that person was and Patterson continues to keep the secret, even if he doesn’t know why it has to remain out of public knowledge.
“I don’t think Zimmer wants me talking about that or anything. I really can’t pick on that. When it happens it happens. If it already happened, it already happened. We’ve just got to let it go,” Patterson said before the Super Bowl.
“When Coach Zimmer is ready to announce that moment, then that moment is going to come out. … I felt like Coach Zimmer kept it a secret and I feel I have to keep it a secret.”
Some speculated the mentor/coach could be Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, but Carter said that isn’t the case. He knows who it will be but also declined to say, revealing only that “he’s not as good as me.”
Patterson also declined to say when and where the offseason coaching session(s) would take place, but he believes they will be valuable.
“I feel like he’ll be a good fit with me,” he said. “I can’t wait until that day comes.”
Patterson enters ‘most important offseason’
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