After a lively Tuesday practice at Minnesota Vikings mini-camp, wide receiver Stefon Diggs strolled up to the podium with John Stockton-length shorts over his white running tights. A reporter ribbed for him for the fashion choice.
“I wear short shorts,” said a laughing Diggs. “I mean, maybe that’s just me. They make fun of me for them all the time, but I’m not gonna stop.”
A day later, teammate Cordarrelle Patterson sported similar-length purple shorts at what turned out to be the Vikings’ final mini-camp workout – a display of solidarity for short shorts wearers everywhere.
That’s par for the course with the current assembly of Vikings wide receivers. Eclectic, eccentric and proud to be a little goofy.
“It’s a great team to be a part of,” rookie Laquon Treadwell said of his new position group on Wednesday. “Everybody is welcoming and showing appreciation.”
Having just turned 21, Treadwell may be the quietest – and to some degree, the most adult-like — man in the group, having had to mature quickly with a now-three-year-old daughter under his watch. “Maybe at first he thought we were kind of weird,” said fellow wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Treadwell’s teammates got him laughing on Wednesday, however, with his first dose of rookie initiation. The first-round pick walked out to find his new car filled to the brim with 60,000 Welch’s fruit snacks; punishment for parking in a veteran’s spot.
Thielen doesn’t expect Treadwell will have to endure much more than that. “Laquon’s a good kid, so I think he’ll have it pretty easy,” he told Cold Omaha.
the average age of the team’s top seven receivers is 23.8 years old.
The wide receiver group had a clear veteran leader each of the last three seasons with Greg Jennings from 2013-14 and Mike Wallace last season. With Wallace now gone, the average age of the team’s top seven receivers is 23.8 years old. Charles Johnson is the oldest at 27 (and has been known to proudly paint his toenails), while Jarius Wright is the most experienced, having been drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. Wright is viewed as the sage of the group at the ripe age of 26. “He’s a wise guy, he knows the offense,” said Treadwell. “He’s at the point where a lot of us want to be.”
“I feel like the oldest guy always should be a leader, each and every day,” said Patterson about Wright, perhaps forgetting that Johnson is actually a year his elder. “I sit beside J-Wright in the meeting room, and we talk all day, man. I’m just trying to get better at something. And J-Wright, he knows every position. He knows where to be on the field, and I’m just trying to pick his brain, try to learn as much as he knows.”
Patterson’s carefree spirit sparks many of the laughs within the wide receiver’s room. He’s known to experiment with new hairstyles and fashion choices, drives a sports car with the decal “Flashy” on the back window, enjoys high-intensity games of rock, paper, scissors and has a habit of laughing at nothing in particular. “I wake up having fun. I go to sleep having fun,” said Patterson, chuckling. “I crack myself up, man. Nobody else can make myself laugh like I can, so I’ve just got to have fun.”
Johnson, Patterson, Thielen and Wright have now spent three seasons together and have helped initiate new traditions to build camaraderie. Each of the last two offseasons, the receivers have worked out with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater near his home in Florida to build chemistry with daytime passing drills and nighttime excursions to Disney World.
“I wake up having fun. I go to sleep having fun,” said Patterson. “I crack myself up, man.”
“Getting together this offseason with the receivers and Teddy and then just continuing into these offseason programs, you can tell that we’re getting closer as a group,” Thielen said. “The more time we spend around each other, I think, the better we are on the field.”
The wideouts have also managed to get wide receivers coach George Stewart involved with their ever-evolving breakdown that they recite before they exit huddles (get a glimpse at the 3:55 mark here). “We all think we’re basketball players, so we’ve got a little bit of between the legs and a dunk at the end,” said Thielen.
Not surprisingly, many of the receivers play pick-up basketball with teammates, in constant pursuit of rising up the team’s hand-written chart of top “hoopers” that was posted in the team’s locker room throughout last season.
From short shorts to fruit snacks to practically doing pseudo alley-oops in the team huddle, the Vikings receivers like to keep things loose. But they are also grounded by a handful of guiding principles, several of which were passed down from Jennings, the veteran who was released after the 2014 season. Each member of the Core Four mentioned above spent at least one year with Jennings and heeded his wisdom.
“The thing about Greg, he was always positive,” Thielen recalled, “and even if you do something wrong, he says, ‘Next play, make it happen the next play.’
“but at the end of the day you’ve just got to be true to yourself.”
“Another thing about Greg, he was so smooth in his routes, and he was so smooth in everything he did. He kind of made it look easy, but he kind of lulled people to sleep. He just caught the ball every time. I think a lot of guys have taken that, just his smoothness in and out of breaks.”
Jennings, a consummate professional during his two years in Minnesota, took many younger players, including Patterson, under his wing. It was something Jennings told Patterson that not only dictates who the enigmatic receiver is today, but is also a tenet of the team’s receiver group as a whole.
“Greg Jennings told me, ‘Just be yourself, man,’” Patterson remembered. “Guys gonna tell you things, each and every day, somebody’s gotta try to do something like this, but at the end of the day you’ve just got to be true to yourself. That’s all you’ve got to do.”