When the Bears signed Cordarrelle Patterson in March, special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor knew that he was getting more than just one of the top return specialists in NFL history.
"We knew that he had value besides just returning," Tabor said. "There are guys you can say are good receivers. There are good running backs. And then there are good football players, and that's what he is. I just think he's a special player, I really do. He's a very gifted athlete."
In his first season with the Bears, Patterson has continued to excel not only as a game-changing kickoff returner but also as one of the NFL's best gunners on punt coverage. He ranks second in the league with a 29.6-yard average on 27 kickoff returns, including a 102-yard touchdown against the Saints, and has also produced several impact plays in punt coverage.
Patterson's performance in those two areas has earned him his third trip to the Pro Bowl in seven NFL seasons, this time as the NFC's special-teams representative.
"It's not a surprise to me because I know what I can do," Patterson said. "That's just the confidence I've had since I've been growing up. I always feel like anytime my number's called on the football field, I can go out there and make a play."
Patterson possesses an extremely rare combination of speed, size, power and athleticism. But nothing is more responsible for his success than his passion for the game. It fuels his desire to fill as many different roles as possible and be the best player he can be.
"I just love football, man," Patterson said. "I come to work with a smile on my face. Every day I just come out here and have fun and whenever I'm on the field, I'm just going to go out there and make a play. That's something I've been doing my whole life. Every opportunity I get to make a play I'm going to go out there and do it to the best of my ability for my team."
Patterson has done that since being selected by the Vikings in the first round of the 2013 draft. He ranks second in NFL history in kickoff returns with a 29.9-yard average and his seven return touchdowns are one shy of the league record shared by Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs.
Patterson hadn't played gunner since early in his career in Minnesota. But Tabor didn't have to ask the explosive 6-2, 238-pounder twice.
"We did it right out of the gate and he was a willing participant," Tabor said. "He's willing to do stuff because he likes to play football. He just likes to play. It's an awesome quality that he has."
This season Patterson has also played on the punt return team for the first time in his career. In last Sunday's loss to the Packers, he came this close to blocking a Green Bay punt.
Patterson is determined to finish the season strong before heading down to the Pro Bowl. Although he knows the annual all-star game is usually played at three-quarters speed, he doesn't intend to slow down when he steps on the field Jan. 26 in Orlando.
"They can't control my speed," Patterson said with a smile. "Whatever they do, that's on them. Whatever I do, that's on me. I'm just thankful for the opportunity to get recognized."