MANKATO — Last year, it was Jarius Wright. This season, it's Cordarrelle Patterson.
It seems that fans always get excited about a new, flashy kick and punt returner, but when it comes time for a clutch return, look for Marcus Sherels to be back for the Minnesota Vikings.
"It's the same every year," Sherels said. "But we all root for each other and try to make each other better."
Sherels, who played at Rochester John Marshall before walking on at the University of Minnesota, is in his fourth training camp with the Vikings. In each of the first three, the quiet Sherels, undersized at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, was a long shot to stick around. But there's something about a player that does his job well that gets coaches all fired up.
'There’s so many things that he can do, and we say, “Marcus go do it.” He’s going to do it the right way," special teams coordinator Priefer said. "I know he’s undersized, and I know that he’s not the fastest guy out there, but he’s faster than what most people think. He’s got great quickness, great intelligence and he’s tough."
Sherels, a cornerback, is in a similar position at this training camp, though his returning resume is more strong with each season of experience. In two seasons, Sherels has made 68 punt returns and averaged 8.7 yards per attempt, and he's averaged 27.1 yards on 34 kick returns. He scored his first touchdown with a 77-yard punt return against Detroit last season.
"He's fearless," Mike Priefer said. "For a little man to be that fearless is rare, and so I like having him back there.
"He can break the big play, he did it last year in Detroit, and he had a couple others he was close on. We need to do a better job of blocking for him, and I think he’ll get more yards this year."
As for the others getting a look at returning kicks, Sherels welcomes the company.
"The better the competition, the better you get," he said. "You have to push yourself and work hard and harder, watch film and ask questions. ... It makes you better, and it makes your teammates better."
Predictions for AP only
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was asked Friday about Adrian Peterson's goal of a 2,500-yard rushing season, and he had no problem with the lofty number.
Because it was Peterson who said it.
Others players, meanwhile, should watch what they say when it comes to public predictions.
"Guys in general is one thing, Adrian Peterson is another," Frazier said with a laugh. "If Adrian says 2,500 or 2,000 it's a different thing, it's a different matter because he's more than capable of achieving those goals. I've learned that.
"He told me last season that he was going to have the type of year that he did have. For it to turn out the way it did, I don't doubt Adrian Peterson. If says he can gain 2,500 it's possible. But if there's someone else talking about predictions and this and that then we'll have a conversation."
Under the lights
Tonight's 7 p.m. workout at Blakeslee Stadium will be a little different than what training camp has seen so far — for both the fans and the players. Frazier hopes a packed stadium will give his team a little more of a game-like feel.
"It's a different environment," Frazier said. "(It's) under the lights, and you feel a sense that it's similar to a ballgame.
"Were going to try to create some situations in that time where they feel like they're in a game situation. It probably helps our young guys more than it does our veterans. It's somewhat new to them."
The Vikings will go through a normal practice tonight before adding in some limited-contact scrimmaging.
Frazier said Peterson's involvement tonight will be limited but would like quarterback Christian Ponder to play a couple of series when the No. 1 offense goes against the No. 1 and No. 2 defense.
"Just get them in the mode of going up and down the field on offense and defense, and we'll have a special teams period as well," Frazier said.
DE Jared Allen is no fan of the new Pro Bowl format, which will eliminate kickoffs and use a captain's draft to determine teams. "You might as well play 7-on-7, sign some autographs and hang out by the pool," he said. ... The Vikings worked on their two-minute drill for the first time in camp. "It's very crucial period for our football team," Frazier said. "So many games come down to that one possession; sometimes it is a two-minute drill, whether you're trying to stop the team or trying to score. That's an area we're going to spend a lot of time on in Mankato." ... DB Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) was held out of Friday's practice, as was S Mistral Raymond (unknown). ... LB Desmond Bishop left practice with a trainer and went to the medical tent. He returned to the sidelines to watch the rest of practice but did not go on the field to play.
— Free Press staff writer Chad Courrier contributed to this notebook
"He's fearless For a little man to be that fearless is rare, and so I like having him back there. -- Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer on Marcus Sherels