Adrian Peterson once told a Minnesota Vikings reporter “I think you seen that wrong” when he wondered about a missed blitz pickup from Peterson. Similar words of wisdom might be given to Cordarrelle Patterson before the Denver Broncos host the Vikings on Sunday.
Patterson appears to be seeing things wrong when it comes to his opportunity on Sunday with starting wide receiver Charles Johnson out with a rib injury and No. 3 receiver Jarius Wright questionable – but optimistic – with a hand injury. Contrary to what Patterson says, this is his best opportunity to prove he was worthy of a first-round draft choice.
“I don’t know how much more I need to prove. Each and every day in practice I just try to get better and focus on my craft. When my time comes, it’s going to come. I’ve just got to be ready, don’t slip up and don’t do anything stupid. Just go out there and take full advantage of it.”
He wasn’t able to “take full advantage” last year when given the opportunity. In fact, it was Johnson who ended up taking Patterson’s starting spot despite not even being with the team for the full season. There was no injury, just coaches saying Patterson needed to be more consistent with his routes and be where he was supposed to be.
It would behoove Patterson to not take things so lightly and try to combine his immense physical talent with a strong desire to get better – rapidly.
“I’m taking it slow, taking it day by day, just not let things get to me. I’m just out here having fun,” he said. “Everyone’s for these guys in this locker room. … Just being myself and enjoying every moment.”
At the very least, there was an admission that it just might bother him that he hasn’t been more of an offensive focal point, or even much of a contributor. It’s understandable why he hasn’t. If the quarterback isn’t confident his receiver will run the correct route, or the correct depth of the route, it puts the entire team at risk. Two yards too short could be an interception. Missing an audible could lead to a quarterback holding onto the ball too long and taking a sack.
It’s hard to tell how much, if at all, it bothers Patterson that he isn’t used more. He carries with him a carefree, nonchalant attitude. That can be helpful when it comes to ignoring criticism, but it’s also partly what incites the doubters.
Does it really bother him being this patient?
“Of course it’s tough. It’s always tough for a player sitting on the side and knowing you want to be out there playing and helping his team out, but you’ve just got to sit back – just wait on your time called and when you’re time is called you’ve just got to be ready,” he said.
If he is ready, his time is now. Charles Johnson is out. Jarius Wright is questionable, although he seems willing to play. But so far when the Vikings have needed a fourth receiver (or a third filing in because of injury), that task has gone to Adam Thielen more than Patterson. This year, Thielen has been in for 30 offensive plays, Patterson for 16.
Coaches have routinely supported Patterson throughout training camp and the preseason, and head coach Mike Zimmer continued with that trend Friday.
“I think he has an opportunity, yes,” Zimmer said.
“I think he’s been doing a good job all along. He just has to go out there and do it. There may be some opportunities for him this week, we’ll see.”
There may never be a more ready-made opportunity for Patterson to become relevant again on offense. Aggressive outside linebackers could present an opportunity for end-arounds. Physical Broncos cornerbacks might have their hands full with a big, thick receiver like Patterson.
It could be his time to earn his “Flash” nickname. He has the flashy draft-day tuxedo. He has the flashy jewelry. He doesn’t have the consistent production.
But does he want it?
“I just really sit back and just wait on my number being called,” he said. “Whatever coach needs (from) me and whatever they say, I’ve just got to make sure I’m ready.”
Sunday could be the opportunity to stop sitting back and waiting for 84 to be called. It could be the ideal time he prove he belongs instead of waiting.