FOXBOROUGH — Mike Zimmer wasn’t about to sugarcoat it. He would like a do-over when it comes to Cordarrelle Patterson.
The Vikings coach doesn’t have fond memories of the way he deployed Patterson during their three seasons together in Minnesota.
“Yeah, you know, quite honestly, [the Patriots are] using him way better than we did,’’ Zimmer said Wednesday. “Cordarrelle’s a great athlete, a very, very strong runner. I think they use him a number of different ways. I mean, it’s good to see for him. I wish we would have used him a little bit better.’’
Patterson has emerged as a bona fide threat from every spot on the field as the Patriots have used him as a receiver, a jet sweeper, and a tailback. He has scored touchdowns receiving, rushing, and returning this season.
“I think they’re getting the ball in his hands quite a bit,’’ Zimmer said. “He’s an exceptionally hard runner that can make a lot of big plays. He can make guys miss. He gets a lot of yards after contact. And then, whether it’s throwing him the ball or handing him the ball or rocket sweeps or whatever it is, I just think — everybody’s known how talented he was. We obviously knew how talented he was here as well, but we didn’t get him the ball enough maybe in a lot of those ways that they’re using him.’’
One thing is certain, Zimmer won’t make the same mistake twice.
“Honestly, since I’ve been watching him on tape, I’m going to put that in the back of my mind if we ever get a guy like this, or a guy like that again, that we can use him in much better ways,’’ he said.
While Bill Belichick acknowledged there’s always an unknown element when a player is acquired, he isn’t completely surprised by what Patterson has brought to the table. The coach saw Patterson’s ability to contribute in multiple roles with the Raiders and Vikings.
“He ran the ball, he caught it, he ran with it, he returned it, he covered kicks, he blocked — he has a lot of skill and he’s a big guy that can run, he’s tough, and he shows up every day,’’ said Belichick. “So, we thought we were getting that, that’s what we got and we’ve used him in different ways. He’s embraced it, he’s worked hard to learn and accept different roles and he’s done them well. So, he’s been a pleasure to coach and he’s been a great addition to our team.’’
A helicopter whirled its way onto the landing pad at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, hovering over the lower field for a few seconds as the Patriots practiced.
It’s unknown who was arriving (or departing) but it wasn’t any player reinforcements as the Patriots enter the homestretch of the season in pretty good health.
Tom Brady returned to practice for the first time in a week after dealing with a knee injury and an illness as the team began its on-field preparations for Sunday’s game against the Vikings. He was still listed as limited because of the knee ailment.
Only tight end Dwayne Allen (knee) was missing from the sweats-and-shells workout, held in a brisk wind (even after the helicopter departed) with a few sprinkles and some light snowflakes mixed in.
Running backs Rex Burkhead, who was officially activated, and Sony Michel, who tweaked his back in the win over the Jets, were on hand. So, too, was Nate Ebner, who was the only other player besides Allen to miss the win in the Meadowlands as he rehabbed a knee ailment. Ebner was limited.
Noticeably absent from the injury report was Rob Gronkowski, who played Sunday after missing the previous two games with ankle and back injuries. “I feel good,’’ said the tight end. “You know, the football wear and tear and all that. You’re never going to leave a game [100 percent],’’ said a jovial and animated Gronkowski . . . Burkhead, receiver Phillip Dorsett, and safety Obi Melifonwu were the Patriots’ practice players of the week from the active roster. Quarterback Danny Etling, receiver Damoun Patterson, and defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu earned the designation from the practice squad . . . Sunday’s matchup will be only the 13th between the franchises, with the Patriots holding an 8-4 lead, including the last four . . . Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins backed up Brian Hoyer at Michigan State in 2008.
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.