Cordarrelle Patterson keeps a picture of his daughter in his locker. His best friend on the team, fellow Vikings receiver Adam Thielen, game-planned the birth of his first child to occur during the team’s bye week.
Has he named his son yet?
“Yup,’’ Thielen said with a mostly straight face. “Cordarrelle Patterson Thielen.’’
Is Patterson offering parenting tips?
“I told him a couple of days ago,’’ Patterson said, “just tell your son yes to everything he asks for.’’
That would ensure the kid grows up to be a receiver, the position where good things come to those who beg.
The Vikings’ teamwide attrition would be comical if it didn’t involve real humans in real pain. They keep losing players and winning games as if one isn’t related to the other, as if coaches can use some kind of magic app to bring X’s and O’s to life.
Sunday afternoon, star receiver Stefon Diggs didn’t play because of a groin injury. Thielen replaced Diggs in the starting lineup, then set career bests with seven catches for 127 yards.
Diggs’ absence also meant more opportunity for Patterson, who ran once for 7 yards and caught four passes for 39 yards and his first receiving touchdown since Oct. 19, 2014.
Veteran slot receiver Jarius Wright was inactive for three of the first four games. He played Sunday and caught four passes for 32 yards.
The Vikings’ locker room groups players by position, meaning that after each game, receivers who think they should have gotten more time or opportunities have to listen to a teammate talking about his time and opportunities.
Sunday, Thielen stood in front of a large group of reporters, talking about his career day, while Wright dressed quietly behind him. Wright has been passed by Diggs, a fifth-round draft pick, and Thielen, an undrafted free agent from Division II Minnesota State Mankato.
Wright wasn’t thrilled by this development early in the season, but a 5-0 record and his teammates’ successes left him with few complaints.
“I was frustrated knowing that I could help the team,’’ he said. “But I also knew all the receivers were playing great. So should I play? No. I mean, think about it. Whose place could I have taken?
“Sometimes it takes an injury to get a chance.’’
The Vikings are winning with defense but are required to score a certain amount of points on offense. At least, that’s the theory.
Sunday, seven different players caught passes from Sam Bradford, and Thielen became star for a day.
“I don’t think it’s much different at this level,’’ Thielen said. “It just feels like playing high school football, college football. It’s the same games, the same routes.’’
Over the first five weeks of the season, a pecking order has emerged among Vikings receivers that has nothing to do with experience or salary.
Diggs is clearly the team’s top receiver. Thielen ranks second on the team in receptions and receiving yards. He has earned a starting job.
Patterson’s willingness to contribute on kick coverage has dovetailed with increased playing time as a hybrid receiver. He had two catches all of last season. He had two in the first three weeks of this season. The past two games, he has caught nine passes.
Charles Johnson, thought to be the Vikings’ best receiver at the beginning of last season, caught one pass for 2 yards despite Diggs’ absence on Sunday. He has played his way toward the bottom of the rotation and could play even less if rookie first-round draft pick Laquon Treadwell improves.
Thielen has progressed from feel-good Minnesota story to must-play Vikings starter, and his buddy Patterson could belatedly become the kind of all-purpose skill player he was supposed to be when the Vikings drafted him to replace Percy Harvin.
“It’s a next-man-up league,’’ Patterson said.
The receivers’ adjacent lockers are a reminder that for every opportunity lost, there is an opportunity gained.
“Got the victory, going into the bye week and having a baby boy,’’ Thielen said. “Pretty exciting week.’’
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On