One of the most scrutinized players on the Minnesota Vikings roster is Cordarrelle Patterson. He always seems to draw criticism for his perceived lack of work ethic, but the team’s coaching staff says he is a hard worker with a great attitude.
Even with the decreased role he has been given on the offensive side of the ball – he has seemingly been turned into a gadget player – he still works hard in practice to better his game.
“It’s outstanding, outstanding,” said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer when asked about Patterson’s work ethic. “He’s continually getting better, he always wants to learn. He comes in my office; we talk about our game plan and what we need to do to be successful.”
Priefer and Patterson have had a great relationship since the wide receiver entered the league in 2013 as a first-round draft pick. He is a big, fast, athletic player and when the Vikings felt like Priefer would be able to utilize his talents on special teams as a return man, they were right.
In his rookie season, Patterson had two kickoff returns for touchdowns – one of which went for 109 yards, tying an NFL record that can never be broken. He was also able to average 32.4 yards a return, which constantly put his team in good field position.
Priefer and Patterson have been working hard to find that same kind of success again and are hoping to find it sooner than later.
“Coach Prief, we always see eye to eye, we always come to a conclusion and if one of us are wrong we just try to make each other right,” Patterson said. “Just try to get that chemistry going, trying to get back like we had my rookie year, just trying to find our swag. We feel like we’ve been missing it and we feel like we’re just one step away from having it.”
Team’s around the NFL quickly learned how explosive Patterson can be in the return game and started to avoid kicking to him all together. They began doing squib kicks and gave up favorable field position, so they did not have to risk a game-changing type of return.
It gets frustrating for Patterson when teams continually avoid kicking to him, but he has to try to remember that it is still helping out the team.
“I love returning and I love catching that ball back there and trying to help my team out,” he said. “But when they don’t (kick to me) and they give up good field position, that’s the same as a good return. Starting at the 45, starting at the 30, anything over the 20 or more is always a plus for the offense.”
Not only is Patterson trying to get back the “swag” he had his rookie year in the return game, but on offense as well. He exploded onto the scene late in his rookie season, having big plays from out of the backfield and split out wide as a receiver, and because of that there were a lot of high expectations placed on him heading into the 2014 season.
He struggled a year ago with executing a lot of the route concepts being taught to him and that led to incompletions between him and his quarterbacks. He eventually fell on the depth chart and his snap counts decreased.
This year he says he has been working hard to get back to where he was and he feels like he is almost there, just waiting for that big game.
“I’m just trying to get that swagger back, and once I find my swagger I know I’ll feel like myself. I can’t wait for it to happen,” he said. “I know it’s going to come up soon and I just can’t wait for it. Just trying to help the team out.”
Patterson has taken a plenty of heat for his relexed attitude over his career because people seem to associate it with him not caring about how he does on the field.
He just tries not to focus on them because he knows that people are going to criticism him no matter what he does or how he acts, so he just wants to enjoy life as much as he can.
“Nobody will ever get me down, I don’t care who you are,” Patterson said. “Life’s too short to worry about what people say behind your back or what they Tweet about you or anything like that. You just got to learn how to overcome adversity and take criticism like that. People are going to talk about you until the day you die; there’s really nothing you can do. You just got to prepare yourself and just get your mind right and be ready for anything. Because they are going to say what they want to say.”
Priefer says he enjoys Patterson’s attitude and loves having him around, and he is just looking for the team, and Patterson, to find even more success this year. He knows when Patterson is having success he is in an even better mood and fun to be around.
“He’s got a great attitude; he’s got a great smile,” Priefer said. “If I had his smile, I’d be smiling all of the time, too. He’s got a good outlook on life and I think people are attracted to that and people like to see that, but he does work very, very hard and I think the more successful he is, the happier he’s going to be. Because of his work ethic and the things that he does for us on special teams it will help us as a team be more successful and in the long run make him happier and all of us happier for that matter.”