When Cris Carter was playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, when he was released, head coach Buddy Ryan made the infamous quote that all he did was score touchdowns.
One of the few Vikings to own a Super Bowl ring – he was on the 2011 Giants team that won Super Bowl XLVI – Trattou has made the most of his opportunities.
In five NFL seasons, he has appeared in just 21 games – 11 with the Giants and 10 with the Vikings.
Last season, he was active for just five regular season games. In those five games, he recorded two interceptions, which tied him with Harrison Smith and Captain Munnerlyn and was twice as many as Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes combined.
In the last preseason game, when the Vikings were looking to put their best foot forward, Trattou recorded both of the team’s sacks, including a strip-sack that created the turnover that helped the Vikings blow the game open.
Like Carter, all he does is make plays. Unlike Carter, Trattou is no Hall of Famer, but in a part-time role he has found ways to make game-changing plays when given the chance.
“I’ve always felt very confident in my ability to make plays,” Trattou said. “I think I see the field well and what’s going on around me. I don’t try to do anything outlandish. I play within the scheme and I think I have enough talent to go out there and make plays when I have the opportunity.”
As his career has progressed, realizing he is being asked to play a supporting role on the defense as well as being a core special teams player when he is on the active roster, Trattou has changed the way he approaches the offseason.
In the Mike Zimmer defense, Trattou has figured out that speed is key to success and has spent his offseason adjusting his training regimen to increase what he has come to realize is his skill set within the scheme.
“I just feel a lot better,” Trattou said. “I did a lot more running than I’ve done in previous years and focused getting my legs built up. I can feel a difference out there on the field and I think it’s helped me a lot.”
Trattou has put five years of time in the NFL and has made the most of the chances he’s received, but he is always mindful of the realities of the NFL. He is no stranger to being inactive on game day or one of the expendables when the team has more pressing needs. Late last season, when the Vikings were desperate to field enough safeties for a two-games-in-five-days stretch with Seattle and Arizona, Trattou became a roster casualty.
While his locker was never cleaned out – he was coming back – it was a reality check much akin to a face-slap, but one that he’s felt before and come back from stronger.
“Those are decisions they make upstairs,” Trattou said. “I get that it’s a business. All I can do is be as prepared as I can be to do my job and prove to the coaches that I belong. That means taking every day seriously. You learn all the time and I try to take in everything that is asked of me and do what I can do. I can only control the things I can control.”
While the Vikings are currently under a dark cloud with the knee injury to Teddy Bridgewater, it could end up being a rallying point for the remaining Vikings, especially those on defense.
It was thought coming into the season that anything Bridgewater could bring to the table could only add to the Vikings’ potential dominance. Defense and running the ball were their calling cards.
That hasn’t changed.
What has changed is both the running game on offense and the defense as a whole needs to take the extra step up to make good on the promise that the Vikings entered training camp with.
Trattou doesn’t play on the offensive side of the ball, so he can’t speak to that end of the game. But he does play on defense and he knows better than anyone that the defensive talent pool is deep enough to carry the 2016 Vikings a long way based on its potential dominance.
“I think our defense has a lot of talent and we’ve built off of Coach Zim’s system each year,” Trattou said. “We’ve gotten really comfortable in it. We make the corrections from one week to the next and try not to make the same mistakes twice. Our talent will win us a lot of games.”
As he has done for the last five Labor Day weekends, Trattou will keep his phone close and hope it doesn't ring. He's been on the wrong end of those calls before, but he has done nothing to deserve being one of the players informed that his services are no longer required.
He's earned that.
All he does is make plays.