EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was at the ESPY Awards in June when he bumped into St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher for the first time. Shortly after meeting the coach whose team he would face in Week 1 of the 2014 season, Patterson presented a request to Fisher.
"I told him, 'Just make sure you kick me the ball,'" Patterson said on Thursday. "He told me, 'Just be ready.' The kicker (Greg Zuerlein), he's got a big leg, so I feel like he's going to try to kick it out of the end zone. If he doesn't, I'm going to bring it out."
Few return men in the league were more aggressive about bringing kicks out of the end zone than Patterson last season. Among the 23 returners who brought back at least 20 kicks last season, only five had a higher average distance from the goal line than Patterson, who started an average of 102.2 yards from the end zone, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The Vikings have given Patterson a green light to return kicks deep in the end zone, believing he will reward them more often than not, and that gamble paid off last season; Patterson brought 79.1 percent of his returns past the 20-yard line, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Only the Ravens' Jacoby Jones and the Jaguars' Jordan Todman were better at delivering a better starting field position than a touchback would provide, and Patterson's big returns provided extra value, too. On average, the Vikings started 69.8 yards from the goal line after a Patterson return, which was the best mark in the NFL.
Patterson will take on a bigger role in the Vikings' offense this season, and the Vikings have tried out a number of different return men in the event they need to reduce the second-year receiver's workload on kickoffs. But after making the Pro Bowl as a kick returner last season, Patterson sounded as eager as ever to keep his special teams role.
"That's my job, man," Patterson said. "I don't feel like I need to get off (kick returns) unless Coach tells me to."