The Chicago Bears have a couple of 2012 Tennessee football players. These Volunteers will bring back memories against the Green Bay Packers at NFL kickoff.
In 2012, Tennessee football had one of the most entertaining offenses to watch in school history…only to stumble to a 5-7 season and see Derek Dooley get fired with a historically bad defense. But the NFL kickoff game this year will feature one team with two players who were the anchors of that offense.
When the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers Thursday night, one of their rotational receivers will be Cordarrelle Patterson. A junior-college transfer in 2012, he stepped in and immediately became in impact player for the Vols.
Patterson was Tennessee football’s second leading receiver that year with 46 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns, but he also had 25 carries for 308 yards and three touchdowns, making him the overall leader in yards from scrimmage with 1,086. In addition to that, he returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown to accrue 10 total touchdowns on the year.
His play allowed him to leave early for the NFL Draft. Now, entering his seventh year as a pro prospect, Patterson has been a journeyman receiver and return specialist with the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots last year, helping them win a Super Bowl. He was a two-time Pro Bowler in Minnesota.
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But since he has joined the Bears, he has reunited with the guy who got him all those yards in 2012. Tyler Bray, who has been a journeyman backup quarterback, signed with Chicago last year and is now on the team’s practice squad. He has never been a starter, but his big arm always leaves a roster spot open for him as a backup.
That year, Bray threw for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He had one of the best passing years any Tennessee football quarterback ever enjoyed, and he also was able to leave early for the pros.
How ironic is it that this season opens with those two guys united, when they put up all those stats playing for Jim Chaney’s offense in 2012, and Chaney is back with Tennessee football as offensive coordinator? That the Vols lost their first game with him back is a bad sign, but these are a lot of coincidences.
Now, Bray and Patterson won’t both be playing Thursday night since Bray is on the practice squad, but Patterson will be looking to make a huge impact with his new team. And if he makes enough of a splash, he could become a full-time starter and regular return specialist for Rocky Top. So watch out.
It’s not likely that Bray becomes a starter for the Bears this year, but there is a definitely a chance for him to earn his way onto the 53-man roster. So you could see him making a connection with Patterson once again in the pros, similar to how they lit up the SEC in college. And this time, they just might have a decent enough defense to go with it.