New No. 84 earning the 'Freak' label for Vikings
MANKATO, Minn. -- There's a familiar sight in Mankato for Minnesota Vikings' training camp, a striking player in a purple No. 84 jersey sauntering around the fields at Minnesota State University. There's the occasional spectacular catch, the excitement when said player plants his foot in the ground to make a move. The new No. 84 looks a bit like the former No. 84 that electrified the Minnesota fans, Randy Moss. Cordarrelle Patterson said he isn't trying to be Randy Moss. He's different. But the comparisons aren't easy to escape. Patterson, shorter than Moss but maybe thicker, elicits similar responses from fans, teammates and coaches. "The word freak; he is a freak," receivers coach George Stewart said this week without prompting. "He's a freak of an athlete." Of course, Moss earned his "superfreak" label while developing into the league's most dangerous receiver as a rookie. The Vikings' plans for Patterson might be a little less ambitious. He's already been deemed the leading candidate to return kicks by special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. His skills as a receiver are still developing but the talent is obvious. Stewart knows receiving talent when he sees it. He appreciates and knows how to utilize big, athletic receivers. Stewart worked with Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes in San Francisco. He was in Atlanta when Roddy White was drafted and he has been in Minnesota the past six years, which included Moss' short-lived return. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Patterson is his size. He's listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds by the Vikings. Those numbers seem small in comparison when seeing Patterson in person. "He's bigger than what you think," Stewart says. "He walks in your room and takes up the doorway," Priefer said. "You're like, 'Wow, that's a big man.'" Stewart said he loves working with big receivers. From Rice, Owens and Stokes, to White and Moss, he's had his share of tall standouts, with each coming in 6-foot-1 or taller and over 200 pounds. "And here's another big receiver that's fast, super athletic," Stewart said. "Everything is in front of him. His learning curve is ahead of him because he's a young guy, and he's going to get better." And Patterson is unlike any receiver the Vikings have had in recent years, or even this season with their revamped receiving corps. "He's different because he's a 6-foot-3, 226-pound athlete that can run a 4.3 (40-yard dash)," Stewart said. "He's fast like Percy (Harvin). He's big like Joe (Webb). And he's nifty like Greg (Jennings)."
It's Patterson's size that has the Vikings believing he can stand
up to the rigors of being the full-time kick returner and receiver, unlike how
the team tried to conserve the smaller Harvin in the past.
Minnesota said it
doesn't have concern over using Patterson on returns and as a receiver because
of his build. But his role as a starting receiver will at least be limited
early because he's still learning the position. Patterson has been working
behind Jerome Simpson at receiver in practices, but one day is expected to fill
the No. 1 receiver role along with his return duties.