NFL Nation: George Stewart

video
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In stark contrast to Ray Rice's awkward news conference in May, the Baltimore Ravens running back showed Thursday that he finally understood the weight of his actions from the alleged altercation with his then-fiancée in February.

He delivered the correct message, one the NFL failed to do last week with the two-game suspension, by not only apologizing to his wife, Janay Palmer, but also expressing a desire to become an advocate for domestic-violence causes.

Rice was compelling in his contrition, calling it the biggest mistake of his life. He stood in front of the microphone alone, without his wife standing by his side, and took full responsibility for the incident. Perhaps more importantly, Rice actually said the words "domestic violence," which weren't heard in his statement two months ago.

"My actions were inexcusable," Rice said. "That's something I have to live with the rest of my life."

Before anyone pats Rice on the back, this is what he should have said the first time when he broke his silence in May. Instead, Rice nervously fumbled through notes on his phone and apologized to team officials and his sponsors. That debacle of a news conference came across as damage control to his image.

His 17-minute news conference Thursday hit the right tones. He apologized to all women affected by domestic violence. He accepted the blame for losing the respect of fans. Rice came across as genuinely sorry.

"I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down," Rice said.

Rice's biggest misstep was not talking about what happened in the elevator. He was asked twice about it and declined to answer both times. His stance against domestic violence would have resonated stronger if he had explained his transgressions.

"I'll be honest: Like I said, I own my actions," Rice said. "I just don't want to keep reliving the incident. It doesn't bring any good to me. I'm just trying to move forward from it. I don't condone it. I take full responsibility for my actions. What happened that night is something that I'm going to pay for the rest of my life."

The only way Rice can move forward from this incident and show he's truly sincere is through his actions. It's not by his words. It's not by a hefty donation, which is merely a gesture. It's by proving this will remain a "one-time incident" and by supporting domestic-violence causes.

Thursday represented a small step forward for Rice. But it was an important one.
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.

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsCordarrelle Patterson is determined to make a bigger impact with the Vikings' offense this season.
"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."
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will announce all of Mike Zimmer's coaching staff once it's finished, but we're starting to get some sense of how the group will look.

We know it will not include former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave; Fox Sports reported on Tuesday that Musgrave has accepted a job as the Eagles' quarterbacks coach. That's not a big surprise, considering the Vikings had already replaced Musgrave with Norv Turner, but Tuesday's news rules out any chance of Musgrave returning to the Vikings in a smaller role.

The Vikings have defensive coordinator George Edwards reportedly in place, as well, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Master Tesfatsion, who's at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., reports he saw Turner's son Scott conducting the Vikings' meetings with quarterbacks -- which is a likely indicator the younger Turner, who was the Browns' wide receivers coach last season, will be on his father's offensive staff for a second season in a row. Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs coach Adam Zimmer, who worked for his father last season, is also expected to join the Vikings' staff.

How many of former coach Leslie Frazier's assistants could stay on with Zimmer? According to a NFL source, wide receivers coach George Stewart and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson both have decent chances. Stewart, who is at the Senior Bowl this week, had developed a bond with rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson dating to last year's scouting combine, and he has worked with Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens in the past. The Vikings blocked Davidson from interviewing for a job with the Atlanta Falcons, which would seem to indicate they would like to keep him on Zimmer's staff.

There are bound to be plenty of questions about special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who was accused by former punter Chris Kluwe of making homophobic remarks during the 2012 season. The Vikings are investigating the matter, and that investigation could help delay an announcement of the Vikings' coaching staff. Priefer is well-respected as a coach, but the Vikings might want to get the situation resolved before announcing a staff with or without Priefer on it.

The rest of the group is still waiting to see what decisions Zimmer makes, but the Musgrave move is at least an indication that the Vikings have given some coaches the chance to accept jobs elsewhere.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFL SCOREBOARD