FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Cordarrelle Patterson may have been a big part of the Atlanta Falcons‘ offense last season, but the former All-Pro kick returner made it clear he wants to still wants to participate on special teams.
Patterson is tied with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington for the most kickoff return touchdowns in NFL history, with eight. So as long as the record is still out there, Patterson wants to be deep on kick returns.
“It’s got to be,” Patterson said, laughing. “I’ve got a record to break, man. I need one more before I can hang it up being back there, man. If I get one more, I’ll stop doing it.”
Patterson has 257 career returns for 7,552 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s twice led the league in kick return yards (2019 and 2020), and he’s led the NFL three times in average yards per return. He’s been a Pro Bowler and All-Pro four times each due to his return ability. His kick return yards rank 11th all-time, and his 29.4-yard return average is third in league history behind Gale Sayers (30.6) and Lynn Chandnois (29.6).
Patterson said he’s lobbied multiple times this offseason to Falcons’ special teams coordinator Marquice Williams.
“We talked like the whole offseason, every two weeks, every other week, texting, calling,” Patterson said. “Talked to him two days ago and told him, ‘Listen, I’m going to be back there, now. I don’t know how much you want me back there but I got to be back there.’
“Like I said, I got a record to break.”
Patterson returned to the Falcons for a second season after signing a two-year extension in March, finalizing the deal while he was on vacation at the beach with his family. It was the culmination of a social media campaign by Patterson to return to Atlanta, where he said that he’d like to finish out his career.
He had the most impactful offensive season of his career under coach Arthur Smith in 2021, rushing for 618 yards and six touchdowns while catching 52 passes for 548 yards and five touchdowns.
His role last season had been a continuation of a plan that had briefly shown up in New England Patriots and started in Chicago Bears to turn Patterson, a former first round pick as a wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, into a running back.
When Patterson signed with Atlanta, Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, who had worked with him in Chicago, had a plan.
Patterson began the season as the team’s kick returner. However, after suffering an ankle injury in the middle of the season, he was kept from that role because of his importance to the offense. Smith said he was managing Patterson’s workload this offseason, including June minicamp and the upcoming training camp, to help him get ready for his workload this season.
Patterson, 31, said nothing really changed in his approach as he enters his 10th NFL season.
“Football is football. I’m sure you do your work the same each and every day,” Patterson said. “I take my job serious and I do the same thing every year. There’s nothing to change, no diet, any of that.
“It’s football, man. It’s something you do, you love. You can’t just keep going and changing stuff every year. That’s when you mess up. So I just try to stick to the same thing and keep doing it.”