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Vikings confirm Patterson no longer a starter
Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner confirmed the obvious Thursday when he said Charles Johnson has replaced Patterson as the starter at the ''X'' position once commonly known as the split end.
Still, such a statement of demotion was a startling development in a season that began with so much promise for the former first-round draft pick.
''We're going to do what we can to get him some opportunities to play there,'' Turner said, ''but C.J. is playing at a real high level right now.''
That doesn't mean Patterson won't still see meaningful action as a wide receiver over the remaining four games. Coach Mike Zimmer said he's been pleased by the way Patterson has performed in practice this week.
''He's busting his rear end. He's doing everything good, so I'm hopeful that he does some good things in this game,'' Zimmer said.
Patterson has 30 catches for 350 yards and one touchdown in 12 games this year. After rushing for 102 yards in the season opener, he has gained just 11 yards on five carries. As a rookie, Patterson led the NFL in kickoff returning. He had four runbacks of 50-plus yards including two touchdowns that started in his own end zone, but this year his longest is 49 yards.
''Every receiver, they want the ball and they want to play and our opportunities, they get low sometimes,'' Patterson said. ''You've just got to be the better person. Just don't take it too personally.''
Turner said he sees Patterson ''being a big-time player in this offense'' moving forward, but clearly the 6-foot-2, 220-pound speedster who played only one season at Tennessee after transferring from junior college has not progressed as a route runner the way the Vikings have wanted. This is also his fourth offensive system in four years.
Patterson missed most of last week to attend an out-of-town funeral, so Turner and Zimmer didn't feel comfortable giving him much time on the field. They also only ran 48 plays against Carolina and called 24 runs. Zimmer has repeatedly said he's a fan of Patterson and confident he'll blossom into a good player, though.
''Me and coach Zimmer, we got a good chemistry. People, they don't believe it. It's tough love. We don't show it, but we have our little talks,'' Patterson said.
He said he hadn't yet sought the coaches out to specifically discuss his usage.
''Next week, if I feel like my reps ain't where I need it to be or I'm not feeling good about it, I have to sit down and talk with them,'' Patterson said.
Meanwhile, Johnson has 11 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown over the last three games.
''It's cool to get your name and go out there on the first play, but what does it really mean?'' he said, downplaying his ascension to the starting lineup. ''We all work together. We're all a unit.''
Ravens' Haloti Ngata suspended for rest of regular season
Tackle Haloti Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, was suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The Ravens have just four games left, so he's done for the rest of the regular season.
Ngata, a 6-foot-4, 340-pound force of nature who moves so well he has two interceptions this season, said he failed the test for using Adderall, a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The NFL does not announce specific reasons for failed drug tests.
Whatever the reason, the Ravens are now without one of their best players for a big stretch of games. Baltimore is 7-5, one of six AFC teams tied at 7-5 for the final wild-card spot. Every other team's chances look a little bit better after this news.
NFL Players Association announces deal with DocuSign
The NFL Players Association announced a deal Tuesday with an electronic-signature company that will give players being drafted this week, along with their current NFL brethren, access to technology that makes signing a contract as easy as hitting a few buttons on their cellphone.
The well-timed deal between the NFLPA and DocuSign comes two days before the draft and with memories of the Denver Broncos-Elvis Dumervil fax fiasco still fresh on everyone's mind.
Last month, the Broncos and their defensive end were unable to seal the deal on a restructured contract because Dumervil couldn't get the signed paperwork back to the team in time via fax.
This arrangement will help prevent a repeat of that Dumervilian disaster, the NFLPA said.
"With the amount of travel our players do, DocuSign adds value by enabling them to sign anything, anywhere," said George Atallah, spokesman for the NFLPA.
The Broncos-Dumervil deal was scuttled in part because the three parties - team, player and agent - were in three cities and on a tight deadline to complete the deal.
Denver needed the paperwork into the NFL by 1:59 p.m. on March 15 or the team would have owed Dumervil $12 million instead of the $8 million the parties had agreed to in the restructured deal.
Dumervil had reportedly found a fax machine at a Fed Ex Kinkos in the Miami area and was dealing with the contract there. But with the deadline approaching and no paperwork showing up on its fax, the Broncos had no choice but to release Dumervil.
Broncos Executive Vice President John Elway said he regretted losing Dumervil, who has 63.5 sacks over six seasons with Denver.
"If there's anything I would take back it's the fact that if there's a deadline, there's a deadline," Elway said. "There's a reason why there's a deadline, because you can't get everything done fast enough. It's an unfortunate situation, but that won't happen again."
The NFLPA already uses DocuSign in a number of areas, including player marketing deals and agent verification forms.
Now, it will bring the technology to the most important thing a player signs -- his contract.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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