If Cordarrelle Patterson were asked on a multiple-choice test if he considered himself a kick returner, receiver or running back, he no doubt would answer, "all of the above."
The Bears veteran has proven that he's capable of contributing in all three areas and doesn't intend to stop now as he enters his eighth NFL season. After lining up at receiver in his first year in Chicago in 2019, Patterson has worked with the running backs throughout training camp. But that doesn't mean he views himself as a full-time running back.
"I'm a full-time whatever-coach-needs-me-to-be," Patterson said Monday. "Anytime I'm out there on the field, I'm a full-time whatever. I don't limit myself on the football field. Whatever coach needs me to do, I'm going to do—safety, running back, right guard, left guard—it doesn't matter. I just want to be out there on the football field helping my team win."
That attitude has served Patterson well. In seven NFL seasons with the Vikings (2013-16), Raiders (2017), Patriots (2018) and Bears, he has averaged 29.9 yards and scored seven touchdowns on 204 kickoff returns, caught 195 passes for 1,955 yards and 10 TDs, and rushed for 785 yards and seven touchdowns on 103 carries in 111 games.
The Bears are confident in what the 6-2, 238-pounder can produce at running back. Starting at that position in back-to-back games in place of the injured Sony Michel with the Patriots in 2018, Patterson rushed for 38 yards on 10 carries in a 25-6 win over the Bills and 61 yards and one TD on 11 attempts in a 31-17 victory over the Packers. Last season with the Bears, Patterson had a 46-yard run in a Week 2 win over the Broncos in Denver.
"When we were evaluating him, we went back and watched all the touches he's had at running back in his entire career," said running backs coach Charles London. "You see an explosive player. You see a big player. You see a guy who can outrun guys. You see a guy that's hard to tackle. I think a lot of the traits you see with him as a running back, you see with him on kickoff return as well.
"We're pleased with where he's at. A lot of it is new to him. He's never been asked to do some of this stuff before. I know he's excited about it, and he's been doing a good job."
London believes that Patterson's transition will be a successful one.
"I think it's going to work because he wants it to work," London said. "He's really excited about this. He knows how he can help the team in this spot. He's worked hard in the offseason to learn the offense and to learn the intricacies of being a running back and what he has to do. He's learning protections and doing everything the rest of the guys are doing. I just think as time goes on and he gets more and more comfortable, you're going to see a more and more explosive player."
Patterson said that the fundamentals of running with the ball are the same at running back as kick returner. But he's had to learn the proper footwork to take a handoff as well as other aspects of the game that weren't as relevant at receiver.
"At running back, I feel like you're like a backup quarterback out there," Patterson said. "You've got to know the 'Mike,' 'Sam' and 'Will' [linebackers]. You've got to know what front. You've got to know so much at the running back position."
“I just think as time goes on and he gets more and more comfortable, you’re going to see a more and more explosive player.” Running backs coach Charles London on Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson is also learning to have faith that the offensive linemen in front of him are creating the holes where they're designed to be in the playbook.
"It just starts with trusting those big guys blocking for you," he said. '[Offensive line] coach Juan [Castillo], he's doing a hell of a job after practice working with those guys and having us running backs come over there and seeing what those guys are seeing. Every run doesn't have to be an outside run. Sometimes if the hole is in the middle, you've got to trust it."