Treadwell went through what many rookies experience, going from the big man on campus to realizing the depth of talent surrounding him in the NFL, from his team to the players he faces. Sunday marked Treadwell’s first NFL catch, a process eight games in the making.
“He has done an excellent job blocking. He got an opportunity to catch the ball the other night in tight coverage, which was actually a really good throw and a really good catch,” new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “So, just like any young player, you get him in there, see what they can do, and then you just kind of gradually give them more and more, hopefully, as long as the game plan calls for it.”
Patience isn’t always easy, but it was forced upon the rookie receiver, despite him being a first-round pick.
“I actually knew I wasn’t as healthy coming in either. I knew that would play a role in it. That’s something I’ve been battling this whole time since I’ve been here is just to get as healthy as I can with my ankle,” he said. “It’s recovered, but it’s still got to get stronger. I knew that was going to be a challenge for me off the jump. For me to go in the first round, I’m just really trying to get myself to keep going. I got my first catch and it’s only going to get better for me. Confidence is everything in this league. It will just continue to get better.”
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Those who watched Treadwell at training camp or in the preseason knew that confidence and feeling comfortable in the offense could be an issue. Work ethic certainly isn’t, as he was most often the last player off the practice fields in Mankato.
But now that the productive receiver from Ole Miss has gotten a feel for what life in the NFL is like, surrounded by competition on his own depth chart and high-level cornerbacks, he still sees great things ahead of him.
“I could be scary. When I was out there last week, I felt completely comfortable. I felt like I could have made a lot more plays. That’s not my time to tell. It’s part of the process,” the mild-mannered rookie said. “When you go in practice and then you go in a game, it ain’t what I thought it was. I’ll just give it time and keep learning and keep focusing and keep getting better. Just keep mastering my craft. That’s the biggest thing in this league is the craft. You can have talent, but if the craft is not sharp enough to sell a defender, get him open, you won’t win much.”
It’s a process that takes time. Look no further than last year’s first-round draft pick, Trae Waynes, who struggled with NFL techniques in the preseason but looks to have overcome most of that in his second season, when he has become a regular contributor and fill-in starter.
Treadwell had the added burden of an ankle injury in college that he says he can still feel but claims isn’t slowing him down.
At Mississippi, Treadwell caught at least two passes in each of his 35 games played. In Minnesota now, he hasn’t played in three of the first eight games.
“I just think guys are a lot better (in games). Guys were good and I go out here with (Adam) Thielen and (Stefon) Diggs and see them guys – and I work out with those guys every day and they go in the game and make plays constantly, back to back to back and it just tells me I’m fine. I’m right where I need to be. There’s no panic in me. There’s no frustration. I’m fine. I’m ready. Whenever my number is called, I’ll get better. I’ll in more games and I’ll get more and more comfortable with the league.”
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder earned his way into first-round status by setting 12 Ole Miss records, including single-season receptions (82), single-season receiving yards (1,153), single-season receiving touchdowns (11) and career catches (202).
At the NFL level, it took two months before his first catch.
“I feel like I’m part of the team now. I’m just kidding,” he said with a smile. “I got my first catch. The first catch was good. It was exciting. It was fun. First live game ever I guess at receiver. Didn’t play that many snaps, but I got a catch. That’s improvement. That’s progress. I’m just being mentally strong, keep working, keep pushing myself.
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“It’s not really that hard. It’s trust. Playing is not that hard. Like I always say, once you get up there you’ll get adapted faster than going through practice and trying to prepare yourself for a game, which was never the same. The speed, the intensity of the game, after I got out in the game, really got a feel for it and I’m comfortable. I’m where I don’t think much about it. I’m just waiting on them to put me back out there to make more plays.”
That might not happen this week, as he suffered a hamstring injury on Thursday that has him listed as questionable. But at least now he has a better feel for what it takes and confidence that he belongs.
“It showed me I could do it. Being out there, you really don’t know what you’re capable of doing, how good you could get, how good you can be,” he said. “Practice is not really intense. You’re just practicing hard and going hard and preparing for Sunday. Going out there Sunday and competing against guys who are actually trying to stop me and their job is on the line and I’m winning, it’s not as hard as everybody makes it seem to be.”