On returns, Patterson has green light

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Each week, it's becoming a little clearer that Cordarrelle Patterson is exactly the kind of kickoff returner the Minnesota Vikings thought they were getting when they gave up three draft picks to move back into the first round and take him 29th overall in April. And each week, the rules for Patterson are changing a little more.

He took the opening kickoff of Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers from nine yards deep in the end zone, completely certain of his ability to make something happen. Patterson started his surge just feet in front of the Vikings' back line, and ended it with a prolonged celebration in the end zone.

"It was pretty good; I mean no matter where the ball is kicked I feel like I’m going to return it regardless," Patterson said on Sunday. "I have a coach who believes in me; wherever the ball is I’m going to bring it out."

The Packers let punter Tim Masthay kick to Patterson one more time, and then handed kickoff duties to kicker Mason Crosby, who hit three touchbacks and punched a short kickoff to Toby Gerhart after Patterson took another kick from nine yards deep in the end zone to the Vikings' 42. The Vikings, it would seem, are now in a chess match with opposing special teams units who don't want to see Patterson burn them, and they're confident enough in the rookie, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said, to counter that by letting him take some chances.

"We've been talking to him about it since the spring," Priefer said. "In terms of trying to make him a productive player, and continuing to make him a productive player, we've got to give him the green light."

Priefer said Percy Harvin might have been a little more explosive than Patterson, but both have a great top gear and Patterson's ability to find holes might be superior. He's averaging 39.06 yards per return this season, and when he returns a kickoff, the Vikings' average starting field position is their own 33, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That's the best figure in the NFL by nearly three yards over the Cowboys' Dwayne Harris, whom the Vikings will see this weekend.

Patterson is explosive enough that the obvious follow-up question continues to be: Why aren't the Vikings doing more to get him involved in their offense?

He got 15 offensive snaps on Sunday against the Packers -- the third straight game he's played at least 30 percent of the team's offensive snaps -- but still had just two catches for 26 yards. The Vikings are using Jerome Simpson as their starting split end, where Patterson also plays, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said the Vikings have more they want to do with both players at the same time.

"We need to stay on the field, so we can call more than a couple dozen (plays), excluding the two-minute drills, and get into our game plan," Musgrave said. "We have some packages we're excited about, getting both those guys on the field."