EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- If he's able to return one kickoff for just four yards on Sunday, Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson will break the Minnesota Vikings' record for kickoff return yards in a single season. Special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer didn't know about it until his son mentioned it to him this week. But Patterson's paying attention to it.
"Oh, yeah," Priefer said. "He's already mentioned it to me several times."
Patterson is closing out one of the great seasons by a kick returner in NFL history, averaging 33.6 yards a return and bringing two kicks back for touchdowns. He is the only player with two kickoff return TDs this season, and Patterson's average is the second-highest single-season mark since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, trailing only Jim Duncan of the Baltimore Colts in 1970.
And one return on Sunday would put him past Buster Rhymes' 1985 mark of 1,345 yards in a season (though, it should be noted, Patterson does not yet have a rapper named after him).
"I know about it. If I worry about that this week they probably won't kick me the ball and it'll make me mad," Patterson said. "I try not to worry about it. ... Don't even pay no attention."
Opponents haven't kicked to Patterson in two of the Vikings' past four games, and it's worth noting that he hasn't returned more than two kicks in an indoor game since Oct. 27, when he set an NFL record with his 109-yard return against the Green Bay Packers. Priefer suspected the windy conditions in Cincinnati last Sunday were preventing the Bengals from kicking the ball out of the end zone against Patterson, but the Lions won't have to deal with that problem on Sunday at the Metrodome.
"This weekend, Detroit’s going to try and kick touchbacks," Priefer said. "Both their kickers -- they have two -- [David] Akers, he’s been kicking all touchbacks the past two games and Sam Martin has done a great job, being the rookie punter they have. Either kicker that kicks off, I expect them to kick it as high and far as they can."
The Vikings will likely have to manage teams trying to kick around Patterson for as long as he's their return man, but the rookie said he's simplified the return process just by listening to Priefer. The Vikings had him in position to return several short kicks last week, as well, and they'll be ready if the Lions try that again on Sunday. But with wind out of the equation, it seems unlikely Detroit would do anything other than try to boot the ball out of the end zone.
"Seems like he knows everything back there," Patterson said of Priefer. "He knows when a team's going to kick it to me. He knows what to do and if they don't kick it to you don't let it stress you out. Just go out and play your game and do what you know how to do."