For the last year, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was essentially a wide receiver in name only. Once viewed as a promising star coming off a sparkling rookie season in which he was used much in the same way Percy Harvin was in previous seasons, Patterson had been relegated to being nothing more than a kick returner.
That changed Monday night when Patterson was used like a Swiss Army knife, catching the ball, running the ball, returning kickoffs and serving as a gunner on the punt team.
It came a surprise to many, but Patterson was aware during the week of preparation that things were going to be very different. He knew in advance that he was going to have more time on the field and plays designed to go his way.
“We had a great game plan coming into (the Giants game),” Patterson said. “We practiced each and every day to try to get the ball in my hands and that’s what we did this week.”
In all, Patterson was on the field for 36 of the 79 snaps (49 percent) the Vikings offense ran. That figure seemed almost unfathomable given his lack of offensive usage.
His 36 offensive snaps were five more than the previous 15 games combined, dating back to Week 8 of the 2015 season – Detroit (4), Chicago (9), St. Louis (1), Oakland (2), Green Bay (2), Atlanta (0), Seattle (0), Arizona (0), Chicago (0), New York Giants (0), Green Bay (0), Seattle (0), Tennessee (5), Green Bay (3) and Carolina (5).
His initial takeaway was that it had been a long time since he had been on the field that long and it took a bit of a toll of his cardiovascular system.
“Oh, man, I was tired,” Patterson said. “That was the first time I’ve played that much for a year. It felt good out there, being with your teammates and trying to help us get a win.”
Patterson admits that there were times of frustration when he felt he was being closed out of the offensive game plan. You can’t make a big impact on games when you’re watching from the sidelines and Patterson seemed like he was in Norv Turner’s play-calling doghouse.
But the combination of family, friends and faith were what kept him holding his head up high as his role on the team was reduced almost exclusively to his ability on special teams.
“Of course there’s frustration, but you can’t let that get to you,” Patterson said. “I’ve got family that I lean on when times get rough. I’m not frustrated at all. I know that God has a plan for everyone. God hasn’t brought me this far to let me down. I just keep praying about things and good things happen for me. You’ve got to just continue to pray. Sometimes people forget to pray when things are going good for them, but I pray each and every day and thank the man upstairs.”
His role in the offense was largely usurped by Adam Thielen. Thielen had taken the opposite route in his NFL career. He went from being solely a special teams role player to seeing his value spike as he got incorporated into the offense. Plays that used to include Patterson now included Thielen.
During that transition, there was no animosity on Patterson’s part. Thielen said he learned from the example set by Patterson as his professional humbling continued throughout the Vikings playoff run last year.
“We talk a lot,” Thielen said. “I think we help each other out, talking through certain things and trying to keep each other patient. Over the last four years, we’ve built a tremendous relationship. He’s a hard-working guy and doesn’t get the credit he deserves sometimes of how is able to overcome adversity and come out here and battle every day in practice. A lot of people don’t see the way he practices and the way he comes into the facility every day and works his butt off. Obviously, it’s showing on game day now.”
There was an indication earlier this year that the Vikings were willing to increase Patterson’s role. For the last two games, he was a gunner on the punt team and made a couple of big plays for them that helped spark the team as a whole.
[JOIN THE VIKINGS DISCUSSION, CLICK HERE]
Whether Monday’s increase in usage was a one-time thing or a portent of things to come hasn’t been determined. But Patterson is excited about his prospects on offense for the first time in almost a year and is ready, willing and able to do whatever is asked of him by the offensive decision-makers.
“I think anyone that’s a football player, if the coach calls your number, you’re going to be ready,” he said. “For me, it doesn’t matter where they put me at, I’m going to try to go out there and make a play for my team. If my number gets called at times, I’m going to go out there, bust my tail and do what I can.”