A videographer was setting up two cameras in a meeting room at Winter Park. One would capture a video about to be shown on the big screen on the back wall. The other would record conversations between a reporter, three kick return blockers and a supercharged rookie who needed all of 13 seconds to make his eternal mark on a Vikings-Packers rivalry that goes back 53 seasons and 105 games.
“So,” blocker Joe Webb said as he surveyed the situation, “one of you is going to film the other one talking to us about the play, while you film the play? That’s a first. Never had this before.”
Just then, the rookie, Cordarrelle Patterson, sitting to Webb’s immediate right, spoke up and reached out to the veteran.
“Dawg,” he said with a laugh, “We’re in history, man.”
Yes, they are. The 109-yard kickoff return to open the nationally televised Sunday night game on Oct. 27 at Mall of America Field is one of the few NFL records that can never be broken. The shoes and jersey Patterson wore that night already sit in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
“I got the game ball,” Patterson said. “But as far as [being a part of history], it’s probably more just more motivation to get more. That happened a couple weeks ago. We’re trying get more [touchdowns].”
Patterson already has two kick returns for touchdowns. The first one came in Week 2 at Chicago, when he tied Percy Harvin’s team record with a 105-yard return. Six weeks later, at 22 and in just his seventh NFL game, Patterson tied the league record for most touchdowns of 105 or more yards in a career.
His next opportunity will come Sunday against the Packers in his Lambeau Field debut. With the Vikings mired in a 2-8 season and quarterback Christian Ponder trying to redeem himself yet again following a fourth-quarter benching a week ago, any help from the 6-2, 220-pound electric returner/receiver is much appreciated.
But first, let’s take a look back at those 13 seconds of NFL history as we sit down to watch the return with Patterson, Webb, Larry Dean and Robert Blanton.
“Take it to the crib!”
Patterson said he is superstitious, but wouldn’t elaborate other than to say he doesn’t stray far from his usual pre-kick routine.
“I say a little prayer before I go out there,” he said. “That’s about it.”
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer huddles the kick return unit together to let it know whether the return is left, right or middle. After that, well, things can get intense.
“Special teams are fun, man,” said Webb, the former quarterback who is now a receiver. “I’ll be out there with a lot of guys that I normally wouldn’t be out on the field with. It’s crazy what’s said in the huddle and what goes on in the huddle. These defensive boys are crazy.”
The leader in that huddle is Larry Dean, a little linebacker who delivers a big wallop. To hear Patterson call the third-year player the leader is funny for an outsider to hear because, well, we haven’t heard Dean say much of anything since he made the team as an undrafted rookie out of Division II Valdosta State.
At some point in the huddle, Webb will tell Patterson, “Meet you in the end zone.” Then, Dean brings the huddle to a close.
“We always break it by saying, ‘To the crib!’ ” Dean said. “And in layman’s terms, that means take it to the end zone.”
And with that, the Vikings lined up. The front six included Webb at left tackle, rookie Gerald Hodges at left guard, Blanton at left center, Dean at right center, rookie Michael Mauti at right guard and Mistral Raymond at right tackle.