EAGAN, Minn. — While Alexander Mattison's workload for 2023 remains undetermined, the running back is excited to be back in Minnesota after signing a two-year deal with Minnesota.
After finishing his four-year rookie contract, the 2019 draft pick briefly evaluated options in free agency before opting to return to Minnesota.
"I'm happy. I love it here. I always tell people I wouldn't rather play anywhere else," Mattison said. "It's just an unbelievable organization, an unbelievable locker room, a team full of amazing guys, amazing coaches and amazing staff, so I'm blessed to be back."
Although Dalvin Cook remains under contract with Minnesota through 2025, there's been speculation about his future during an offseason in which the Vikings have trimmed salary cap space through multiple moves.
View photos from the Vikings OTA practice which took place on May 23 at the TCO Performance Center.
Cook was not at Tuesday's voluntary Organized Team Activity practice, so Mattison led the running backs through each drill and was featured with the first team during 11-on-11.
Coaches have previously complimented his talents and ability to keep the full offense available in games, whether it's been in relieving Cook for a series or starting in his place.
Mattison said he and Cook have regularly connected through FaceTime to continue their strong relationship.
Mattison is ready for any role and is enjoying the opportunity to take more steps forward in an offense that has maintained a high degree of continuity.
This will be the first time in Mattison's NFL career for the Vikings to have the same play caller (Head Coach Kevin O'Connell) and offensive coordinator (Wes Phillips) for consecutive seasons. The Vikings also are positioned to return every starting offensive lineman from 2022, as well.
"Understanding the offense a little bit better, having pretty much a second nature when it comes to formations and certain plays," Mattison said, has boosted his confidence.
He also is aware that the Vikings want to improve their running game in a couple of aspects.
Minnesota ranked 28th in rushing attempts (404), 27th in rushing yards (1,661) and 26th in yards per rush (4.11) in 2022.
More problematic, perhaps, was the fact that Minnesota had 103 rushes that gained 0 or lost yards, the fifth most in the NFL. That means the Vikings did not gain at least 1 yard on 25.5 percent of their runs.
O'Connell and company want to reduce the frequency of negative runs and position themselves in better down-and-distances to reach the full depths of the playbook. A second-and-6 looks tremendously different to a play caller than a second-and-12.
"We all knew [the run game] was an area of improvement we needed, so coming into this year, there's more emphasis," Mattison said. "Being in Year 1 in this offense, it was something that throughout the process is learning new things, so that's a year of foundation that we have, can look back on that at what we need to correct and do well, what we don't do as well and improve. It's definitely been a little more emphasis."