FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — It happens almost every practice. During a period of special teams – either related to punts or after the first rehearsals of the kick return, Cordarrelle Patterson heads to the edge of the Atlanta Falcons practice field, past the SAFE safety guards and against the thin rope.

The crowd gathers and the begging, pleading and sometimes shouting begins.

“Patterson, will you sign this?” “CP, take a picture with me?” “Patterson. Patterson. Patterson.”

After Patterson had the best year of his NFL career in his first year with the Falcons in 2021 as an all-around offensive option with 618 rushing yards and six touchdowns along with 548 receiving yards and five more affected, he became a fan favorite.

Not just because of his play on the pitch, but because of things like that off it. Patterson regularly engages with his supporters. Before each match, he plays wrestling with the fans, regardless of the team, home and away.

This, however, is new. Stepping away during practice to sign autographs and take pictures — even one where he was holding a baby — is next level, even for him.

“I think it’s the first. I think it’s the first,” Patterson said. “I’m getting old, man. I don’t know.”

There is also a practical reason for this. Patterson, 31, is one of the Falcons’ oldest players. And during times when he’s not doing anything, he wants to keep moving.

Of course, he could do it on the sidelines with his teammates. But it’s a training camp. The fans are there. So why not offer them more interaction?

“I just don’t do anything during this time,” Patterson said. “So I can sit and stiffen or walk around and sign autographs. So I choose to sign autographs and stay loose.”

It’s a brilliant decision, both as a different way to keep moving and also to endear himself to fans. He did so through his social media during the offseason, where he openly campaigned to return to Atlanta as a free agent – ​​a deal that was eventually completed while on a beach vacation in March. .

Patterson played in Atlanta like it was a different level of fun for him and mingling with people cheering for him, waving about him and supporting him is one way to do that.