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'Atlanta spoiled me': Cordarrelle Patterson vocal about wanting to remain with Falcons after big year

There have been short bursts of intentions -- a quick quip followed by a photo or a GIF or a meme. Many of the tweets all center around the same thing for Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson.

His desire to stay in Atlanta.

This isn’t entirely new – starting in the second half of last season, Patterson has made a point of being as vocal as he’s ever been about wanting to return to a place that has been as good to him as any of his five stops during his nine-year career. But it is notable because of how consistent he’s been about it.

And now, as free agency is inching closer, he’s continuing with the same general thought process.

“When you get somewhere, Atlanta feels like home, so why not retire here and end my career here,” Patterson told ESPN by Zoom on Saturday while doing some promotional work for eBay at the Culture Collision in Atlanta. “It feels good. It feels like it’s the right place, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to do what’s best for me and my family, you know, and if Atlanta is not that place, then it’s not that place.

“Hopefully it is, but if it’s not, I’ll move on with my life. Being vocal, that’s just something that I do, man. When I first got to Atlanta, I said, I’ll get in, get the fans involved so when it’s time to get a new contract, I’ve got the fans on my side. So it all played out just how I expected it to.”

It's not a surprise that Patterson became a fan favorite considering how he’s always interacted with crowds -- from playing catch with fans before games to trying to secure tickets or gear for fans who reach out to him.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank noticed. He said during Super Bowl week the club has been in “discussions” with Patterson’s representatives. While he didn’t commit to Patterson’s return, he said he liked what Patterson gave Atlanta.

“I’ve never seen a player actually go around the stadium and warm up by throwing balls and playing catch with fans in the stands, and I think that’s really cool,” Blank said. “We didn’t ask him to do it. He just kind of does it. So I think he’s great on the field, great off the field.”

Fans have always been a big part of why he plays -- beyond taking care of his family and that he enjoys it. Last season, though, something different happened. The long-time special teams star became the crux of Atlanta’s offense.

He set career highs in rushing yards (618), receiving yards (548) and all-purpose touchdowns (11). He became so important to the Falcons’ offense that he even got taken off what had made him a four-time Pro Bowler -- special teams.

“It was crazy, really, middle of the year, when I just started blowing up,” Patterson said. “It really just felt like college all over again. Like wow, this is how fun it used to feel, that’s how fun it is to be out here really playing and just having fun, being like a kid all over again.

“People say, ‘He’s 30, man, he’s about to be 31, he can’t.’ I still got it, man. Line me up, put me anywhere on the field, I’m going to do it.”

It’s made his future even more intriguing as he heads toward possible free agency. As important as anything to Patterson now is finding a place that he says “just values me.” Making enough to make sure his family is secure is important. So is respect and value.

Atlanta may have changed how teams view Patterson -- and how Patterson views himself. No longer is he just the intriguing player with all of the potential. Now there’s tangible proof of what he can do if he’s used in a specific way. Falcons coach Arthur Smith was able to unlock that ability -- one that started in Chicago in 2020 -- in a way no one else had.

“Oh man, Atlanta did it. Atlanta did it,” Patterson said. “They did it good to me. They spoiled me. Atlanta spoiled me, man. I’m thankful, honestly.

“I’m blessed for the opportunity Atlanta gave me. I’ll never forget this year.”

If there’s one part of his future that is concrete, though, it’s this: Patterson believes deeply in special teams, where he’s one of the best returners ever. His 29.4-yard kick return average is third all-time. And he’s tied with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington for the most kick return touchdowns with eight.

And returning to special teams, even with his breakout on offense, remains important because of the record.

“It’s funny because I had seen [Falcons special teams coordinator] Marquice [Williams on Friday], we were just talking ball and stuff, and I told him, 'Man, I need that record,'” Patterson said. “I need that record. I said once we get that record, we’re going to retire. It’s a joke, but I got to get that record, man.

“I want to do it with Marquice.”

Which, of course, would mean remaining in Atlanta -- true to Patterson’s message over the past four months.