There is always a section set aside for special teams at a Minnesota Vikings practice, and Sunday’s practice saw a lot of punt drills during that portion.
The coaching staff was working with Jeff Locke punting the ball, part of which involved him and the gunners trying to pin the ball near the goal line without getting a touchback. Oddly enough, the player acting as the return man in those situations was wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson primarily works as the team’s kickoff returner and, while he isn’t normally on the field on punts, he has gotten some reps on occasion.
“Cordarrelle’s been back there as a punt returner a couple of reps in the last couple years,” special teams coordinator Mike Priefer began. “Maybe as a, not as a decoy, maybe as a reverse/fake reverse-type thing we’ve had him back there. So we’ll put him back there from time to time and he’s got the ability, obviously, if he catches the ball in the open field he’s got a chance for a big play.”
Patterson has been one of the most polarizing figures on the Vikings football team since they traded back into the first-round of the 2013 draft to take him. He has always been one of the team’s most explosive players but has never really been able to put everything together on the offensive side of the ball.
His role on the team last year was almost exclusively as a kickoff returner, but he was still one of the best in the NFL. He managed to return two kickoffs for touchdowns last season, which was tied for the most in the league.
He possesses the ability to break a play wide open and score from anywhere on the field, which is why the coaches want to try and get him out on the field whenever possible. His ability to create something out of nothing could be a possibility why he ends up out on the field with the punt return team more often this season, but a couple things have to go right in order for that to happen.
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“It depends on how we’re doing on punt return, how well we’re returning the ball, the punt team that we’re playing - how they cover,” Priefer said. “A lot of different factors go into play there. Just like any other game-plan decision we make.”
Marcus Sherels still appears to be the team’s No. 1 return man for punts, with Troy Stoudermire working as his backup in the preseason. But both of those players were working as gunners in the drills when Patterson was receiving punts and that was a big reason why it was Patterson taking those reps.
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Still, don’t be surprised to see Patterson walking out onto the field with the punt return team if they ever need a big play. Teams tend to put their best players out on the field in the biggest moments of games and Patterson is certainly one of the most explosive in the open field.