Gallery: Rookie shines at camp

Published 2:42 pm Friday, July 26, 2013

Cordarrelle Patterson of the Minnesota Vikings runs past a defender Friday during the first day of training camp on the Minnesota State University campus in Mankato. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Cordarrelle Patterson of the Minnesota Vikings runs past a defender Friday during the first day of training camp on the Minnesota State University campus in Mankato. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

MANKATO — The start of training camp on Friday marks the first time the Minnesota Vikings can grade their offseason acquisitions to see how well they fit into the organization’s puzzle.

“We have some pieces in place, but there are some unknowns,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said. “We’ve got to get some reps under our belt with practice and preseason games, so we can fully evaluate them and bring that group together.”

After last season, a void was left at multiple positions when dynamic playmaker, Percy Harvin, was traded to Seattle for the 25th pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Harvin was utilized all over the field. He was a kick-return specialist, who led the team with 35.9 yards per return (547 yards on 16 returns). He was quarterback Christian Ponder’s main target, hauling in 62 passes for 677 yards, — both of which were team highs — and he was a threat out of the backfield and in motion to compliment perennial Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson.

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To fill Harvin’s spots, the Vikings drafted a player with a similar skill set: Cordarrelle Patterson. He was selected with only four picks left in the first round (No. 29). Patterson knew the Vikings were interested, but they decided to select Florida’s Sharrif Floyd at No. 23 and Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes at No. 25.

“When the spot opened up, they passed on me. Then they got another opportunity, and they passed again,” Patterson said. “Then, I got the call. I think my heart stopped for a little bit. I really didn’t think I was going to get drafted that day.”

Patterson showed a diverse array of talents as a receiver and specialist during his two years at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, and while he attended the University of Tennessee for one year.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Patterson said of making the jump from junior college to a school in the Football Bowl Subdivision to the NFL.

Despite Patterson’s similarities with Harvin, Patterson said he is trying to focus on his game to be the best he can be.

“I try to tell people it’s no pressure. I can only be Cordarelle Patterson, he said. “I’m just trying to fill my role.”

As a student of the game, Patterson has taken notice of Harvin’s skills and learned a few things.

“Percy was a great player when he was here,” Patterson said. “I looked at him and still watch his film to this day. He did everything possible he could to help the team.”

Patterson didn’t disappoint in the morning walk-thru practice at camp, but he shone brightest in the afternoon session with helmets. He caught nearly every pass he was thrown in drills: he snagged a pass on a deep flag route and made an acrobatic catch over the middle, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd at Blakeslee Staduium on both occasions.

With question marks on the kick-return front, the Vikings have the opposite on punt-return team: solidarity. Last season, Marcus Sherels returned all 32 punts, and he even returned one for a score.

Despite his success on special teams, Sherels said he’s not sure who the coaching staff will choose for personnel.

“We’ll see what happens. If coach Frazier calls my name, I’ll be ready,” he said. “There’s a lot of competition. We’re just competing and trying to get better day in and day out.”

Having played high school football at Rochester John Marshall and college football at the University of Minnesota, Sherels still gets excited for training camp in his fourth season.

“I’ve got a lot of friends and family who make the trip,” Sherels said. “It’s obviously a good time.”

Sherels is one of three Vikings on the roster from Minnesota. Other home grown Vikings are wideout Adam Thielen of Detroit Lakes and tight end John Carlson from Litchfield. Thielen played college football at Minnesota State University and Carlson attended Notre Dame. Hazelwood, Mo. native LaMark Brown, a former MSU receiver, also made the roster.

The Vikings have high expectations after making the playoffs and posting a 10-6 regular-season record last year.

“My main focus is winning a championship,” running back Adrian Peterson said. “2,500 (yards) is a goal of mine, and if that happens, it happens. If not, it doesn’t matter, as long as we win.”