Encore at No. 84? Vikings rookie Patterson has work ahead

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2013 - 6:28 AM

As a receivers coach at the University of Washington and later at Tennessee, Charlie Baggett had a go-to recruiting tool, a handy Randy Moss highlight film he’d frequently load up in hopes of generating an adrenaline spike.

Baggett wanted promising young receivers to see the total Moss package — the blazing speed, the freakish body control, the ability to snare passes no one else had a chance to catch.

On top of that, Baggett used the highlights as an entry point to share his experiences coaching Moss with the Vikings from 2000 to ’04. (For what it’s worth, that’s 425 Moss catches, 6,416 yards and 62 touchdowns worth of experience.)

So here’s the crazy thing: A few years back when Baggett took his Moss montage to recruit a 6-3, 205-pound dynamo at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, he was instantly speaking the kid’s language.

Cordarrelle Patterson, it turned out, wore No. 84 as a tribute to his favorite receiver growing up. He always had marveled at Moss’s game-breaking skills and had used his own rare size, speed and athleticism to deliver a junior college YouTube clip that magnetized Baggett and the Volunteers his way.

So, yes, Patterson was receptive to Baggett’s courtship and landed at Tennessee in 2012. And now, as fate would have it, he’s wearing 84 for the Vikings and stimulating the imagination of all those around him.

Now consider this bold proclamation from Baggett: “When you look at just the sheer speed and athleticism, Cordarrelle may have even more explosion than Randy had. Honestly. He’s that special.”

Let your imagination run wild with that endorsement. Then do as Baggett did, take a deep breath and understand the context.

“I don’t want people misinterpreting me as saying Cordarrelle is better or will be better than Randy Moss,” Baggett said. “When it comes to everything else that’s needed to be an elite NFL receiver, he has a long way to go to reach Randy. But he definitely has that ability. He really does.”

So now here’s the puzzle that needs solving: How can the Vikings unlock Patterson’s potential and turn him into a Pro Bowler? How can they take a kid who has so much football to learn and still bring out his strengths at every stage of his education?

More than meets the eye

Eight weeks after the Vikings completed an astonishing draft-night trade, sending four picks to New England to land Patterson with the 29th selection, the consensus at Winter Park is that the rookie receiver has a rare ability to generate excitement — if the right buttons are pushed.

Yet within the organization there’s also recognition that Patterson faces an incredibly steep learning curve. And as minicamp wraps up Thursday, closing a dizzying stretch of offseason orientation, even Patterson acknowledges that the volume of information he has been asked to absorb has been eye-opening.

Just skimming the bulky playbook for the first time proved daunting for a 22-year-old who confesses he spent most of his college career as “that guy slacking in the playbook,” rarely driven to study his craft.

“I never really had time enough to learn and develop all I needed to learn,” he said. “And a lot of times you’re the best one of the field, the biggest, the fastest. You can go off your ability.”

With those admissions and because of his deficits in detailed football knowledge, some NFL teams wrote Patterson off as unmotivated. The Vikings, however, sensed something different and upon playing host to Patterson during their pre-draft Top 30 event in April, receivers coach George Stewart set out to learn what made the kid tick.

“I needed to know what I was getting,” Stewart said.

Stewart knew Patterson carried a label in some circles as “a knucklehead” with a remedial understanding of the game. He was aware of outside criticism that cast Patterson as sometimes arrogant and standoffish.

But Stewart wanted to make his own judgments. So in a one-on-one session, he and Patterson had a heart-to-heart, talking about so much beyond football, instantly creating a bond and a deeper trust that will prove vital to the teaching process.

“Sitting down with so many coaches from other teams, all they wanted to know was about football,” Patterson said. “Coach Stewart already knew I could play, and he already knew what I needed to improve on. So he sat down to get to know me, my family, my personality.”

Taking it slow

The push to draft Patterson was never a blind leap of faith. During the pre-draft process, the Vikings began brainstorming strategies for how to create an optimal learning environment if they were fortunate enough to land the receiver.

It’s no coincidence that Patterson’s Winter Park locker stall is sandwiched between receiver Greg Jennings’ and quarterback Matt Cassel’s. Both veterans already have been, in the rookie’s words, “a huge help.”

And while the coaching staff knows it needs Patterson to get up to speed as soon as possible, it also has been conscious not to dump three gallons of water into a pint glass.

“Everyone learns different,” Patterson said. “Some people take it slower. For me, I don’t like having a lot of stuff thrown at me at one time. Because I start to feel like I’ll never catch up.”

Added Stewart: “It’s like a puzzle. The pieces have to connect. The concepts have to connect. You can’t start that 1,000-piece puzzle with a piece over here, a corner piece over there, another corner piece way out here. Because then none of it makes sense.”

Stewart lauds Patterson’s understanding of the game and has identified him as “a visual conceptual learner” who responds best when shown what to do.

“He can see things,” Stewart said. “His visual conception of things is outstanding. If you talk it to him, it doesn’t click. When you put it on the board, he sees it, he understands it, he lights up.”

The Vikings’ hope is Patterson will be lighting it up weekly come September, quickly emerging as a significant factor in a passing attack that needs so many more big plays.

Yet while the rookie knows the lofty demands from fans will only swell from here, he’s thankful he landed with an organization that’s investing energy in his growth. And he’s constantly reminding himself to run his own race.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 104 FINAL
Indiana 91
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Detroit 95
Milwaukee 109 FINAL
Miami 102
Memphis 109 FINAL
Dallas 90
Chicago 113 FINAL
Golden State 111
Washington 98 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 4
Winnipeg 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Washington 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Carolina 4
Dallas 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 FINAL
Florida 4
Colorado 3 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 4
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 66 FINAL
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 65 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Central Mich 53 FINAL
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 67 FINAL
Virginia Tech 70
Indiana State 78 FINAL
Evansville 89
Tabor College 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Florida 52 FINAL
Alabama 50
Tennessee 64 FINAL
Arkansas 69
Texas A&M 71 FINAL
Auburn 61
Baylor 53 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 44 FINAL
Utah State 56
Fresno State 47 FINAL
San Diego St 58
UNLV 67 FINAL
Nevada 62
SD Christian 54 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 79
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Boise State 82
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 63 FINAL
Houston 46
(3) Baylor 89 FINAL
TCU 67
Navy 49 FINAL
American Univ 59
Valparaiso 42 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 60

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What chance does the Wild have of making the playoffs?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close