If you’re wondering what to expect in 2013 from Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, we can promise this much. The 22-year-old will consistently embody a youthful energy that should become contagious. That much was evident Thursday as Patterson assisted with the Vikings’ annual playground build at the Howe Campus of Hiawatha Community School in South Minneapolis.
After lending a hand with some of the finishing stage dirty work, Patterson hopped on a swing to test it out. Until, of course, he was reminded the playground was being built for grade school kids and not 220-pound NFL receivers.
Patterson later got his hands on a video camera and spent 10-15 minutes darting about to chronicle his teammates shoveling mulch and painting a mural for the playground.
Enthusiasm won’t be a problem for the receiver the Vikings nabbed with the No. 29 pick last month. But just how fast will Patterson’s on-field emergence occur? That’s a different matter. And at least in the first month of his NFL career, the team’s front office and coaching staff has kept its expectations tempered, issuing frequent reminders that Patterson’s earliest significant contributions will likely come as a kick returner.
His climb to become a big-time receiver will take longer with so many nuances of the position still to be learned and the Vikings, in turn, needing to find the simplest ways to get him the ball initially.
Patterson’s development was a hot topic this week as the team completed its first stretch of Organized Team Activities. Here’s what head coach Leslie Frazier, veteran Greg Jennings and receivers coach George Stewart had to say.
On his initial impressions of Patterson …
“I like him a lot. His length, his catching ability. And he has a better knowledge of the passing game than we expected. We feel like we can do a lot with him. We’re impressed, very impressed.
On whether Patterson will be eased into things with Jennings and Jerome Simpson able to supply big-play potential as well …
“That is the plan. We don’t want give him too much early. We want to make sure we do enough to get him on the field and really go to his strengths. There are some things that we have in mind. But everything that I’ve seen, we’ll be able to utilize his talents. He’s a gifted young man.”
On how he’ll factor in on special teams …
“We’re going to look at him primarily as a kick returner. He’s done some punt return but that’s not where we’re going to be looking at him primarily.”
On Patterson’s potential
“He’s gotten off to a great start. From what I’ve been able to see and from what I’ve shared with him, he’s a great kid. He’s working hard. He’s getting better every day. And again, that’s all you can ask for from a young guy coming in. I don’t really care for calling him a rookie. Because he’s going to have to grow up pretty fast. He’s going to be a player, a playmaker on this team. And we need him to be that playmaker as soon as possible.”
On how Jennings can help his development …
“Just being there every day and answering questions that he may have. Making sure it’s not all criticism. Being constructive about it. But at the same time, letting him know when he’s doing things right and letting him know that I’m watching him so I can get better as well. So it’s not just a one-way street. I’m not just watching him to tell him what he can do better. I’m watching him to see what I can add to my game as well. You definitely can see the talent that’s there. It’s raw. You can tell that he’s a guy that’s been just gifted and just better than most that he’s gone up against.”
On delivering tips on crisp route running …
“My senior year in college [at Western Michigan] I had a coach by the name of George McDonald. And he emphasized being detailed. Detail your work. Detail your work. Detail your work. Every day it was detail your work, detail your work. And everything I did was never good enough. But he created a mindset to where I never was satisfied. And I felt like I had a pretty decent work ethic. But when you hear someone constantly not rip you or jump on you but simply say ‘Details, details, details,’ consciously you become cognizant of everything you’re doing. So I’ve tried to share that, those little snippets with CP now. Just, ‘All eyes are on you. I’m watching you. I’m watching you.’ So he knows that somebody is looking at him, so I have to make this perfect. Or get it as close to perfect as possible. It’s not always going to be perfect. I’m not perfect. No one in this organization is perfect. … But if we all get as close to perfection as possible, that’s when special things happen.”
On whether Patterson is up to speed in learning the system …
“He’s learning football as expected. He’s not a guy that you look at that’s behind on things. He’s sharp. He always comes and talks through things. Jarius Wright does a good job of staying with him. He always comes to my ear and asks questions. He’s very inquisitive, which I like. He’s picking up things extremely well.”