MINNEAPOLIS -- Perhaps the most confusing thing about Cordarrelle Patterson's dynamic rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings was how long it took the team to unleash Patterson in its offense, considering how much of a jolt he gave it once he became a bigger part of the Vikings' scheme in November. Patterson scored six touchdowns in the final five games of the season, with three coming on runs and one on a 79-yard screen pass at the end of the Vikings' wild loss to Baltimore on Dec. 8.
Former coach Leslie Frazier said last season that the Vikings brought Patterson along about as fast as they could, even though it seemed like the ways Patterson ultimately affected the Vikings' offense the most were on relatively simple plays. But Patterson said this week he didn't work hard enough as a rookie, and said he wants to be available at more receiver positions than just split end, where the Vikings primarily used him last year.
"This year my whole mindset is, 'Remember everything. Do better than you did last year,'" Patterson said this week. "I think I was kind of bad last year. This year will be way better."
By all accounts, offensive coordinator Norv Turner brings a more complex offense to Minnesota than what the team had under Bill Musgrave, so Patterson will have to digest a more intricate scheme as he learns his second offense in two years. On the other hand, general manager Rick Spielman said at the NFL scouting combine that Turner already had 10 plays designed for Patterson, and Turner moved Patterson around in the Vikings' offense plenty during the team's voluntary minicamp this week.
"I think you've always got to hold that judgment in terms of how a guy handles it," Turner said on Thursday. "We've had guys who have been very productive players, extremely outstanding players I would say, and they lined up and played one position. We've had a bunch of other guys we've moved around. We've moved Cordarrelle around quite a bit this week and he seemed to handle it pretty well, so we'll see how much he can handle?"
It is interesting, though, to hear Patterson putting the onus on himself to work harder, especially in light of something he mentioned to Fox sideline reporter Charissa Thompson after he scored his final touchdown of the season in the team's Dec. 29 win against the Detroit Lions. Thompson said during the broadcast that Patterson rubbed people the wrong way in meetings early in the season, adding veteran receiver Greg Jennings wasn't sure what to make of Patterson and that it all changed when fellow receiver Jarius Wright invited Patterson on a trip to Las Vegas. The story is worth noting in light of how much more aware Patterson seemed this week of where he fits in the Vikings' offense, and how his work ethic can affect his teammates' perception of him.
He said he spent his offseason taking a pair of classes at Tennessee -- though he wasn't able to finish one of them because he had to return to Minnesota during the final exam -- and added he plans to take classes at the University of Minnesota next year, so he can stay in town and work out at the Vikings' facility while making progress toward a degree in communications.
It seemed important for the Vikings to retain receivers coach George Stewart, who had bonded with Patterson before last year's draft, and in his second year working with Stewart, Patterson seems more aware of his surroundings and the expectations on him. The knock on Patterson coming out of college was that he would struggle to master NFL offenses, and he'll be asked to learn his fourth scheme in as many years, counting one year with Musgrave, one year at Tennessee and his final season at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
There is little doubt Patterson will be an integral piece of the Vikings' offense in 2014, but some of that will be based on how much he can handle. Based on what he said this week, he seems intent on making a good impression.
"It’s been tough, (but) like I said, I lean on the guys in that locker room," Patterson said. "I lean on them a lot, they help me and expect big things from me, and I expect big things from them."