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Vikings RB Alexander Mattison looking to 'maximize' new role

Alexander Mattison has been waiting for this moment.

The Minnesota Vikings running back, who is set to become the team's primary ball-carrier in 2023 following the release of four-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, told SiriusXM NFL Radio this past week that he's going above and beyond this offseason to ensure he's ready for a featured role.

"It definitely changes things," Mattison said. "I like to go into every season preparing like I'm the back. That's kind of where my mindset has always been. That's kind of where we, as a running back group, held ourselves to that standard of. I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for having Dalvin in that running back room and challenging me to challenge him every single day, so that kind of helped me out within my preparation.

"Yeah, with that understanding of knowing kind of where my role is going to be and maximize it. I've been a lot more prepared in the way of understanding where I'm going to be at in the playbook, where I'm going to have to be at physically, my stamina. It's just a whole bunch that I have to now take into account but without applying too much pressure, of course, because this is a game of ball that we have grown to love and grown to adapt to at all different levels. I'm definitely comfortable as a professional athlete and understanding what I have to do to get the job done. Now just cranking that thing up and getting ready for this opportunity that I have in front of me."

Mattison, 25, will have some big shoes to fill replacing Cook, the Vikings' leading rusher the past five seasons. But ever since his rookie campaign in 2019, Mattison has shown great potential for such a role.

The former third-round pick amassed 462 yards on 100 carries (4.6 yards per carry) as a rookie and instantly forged a reputation of being a tenacious runner. In 2021, Mattison generated his best season numbers-wise with 719 yards from scrimmage (491 rushing, 228 receiving), but the career-high numbers only came when given the opportunity (career-high four starts in 2021).

Mattison saw career lows last season (283 rushing yards off 73 carries) due in large part to Cook being available for all 17 games, but Mattison's change-of-pace role proved beneficial in red-zone situations with a career-high six touchdowns.

The Vikings re-signed Mattison to a two-year deal this offseason, perhaps knowing they'd require his services as the team tried to find a suitable trade partner for Cook. Mattison held no expectations all along, even when his rookie contract was up this offseason.

"There wasn't much anticipation," Mattison said of Cook's release. "I actually didn't think that I'd be back in Minnesota, so it's a blessing to be back, to be in a place where I spent the first four years of my career and loved it there. To be there, be a part of this team, this locker room, the ownership, the staff. It's a great place to be, so I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, and while I'm with this opportunity in front of me, I just see so much upside. Just coming back into year two of this offense under coach K.O. (Kevin O'Connell) and (offensive coordinator) Wes Phillips. They just, they know what they're doing, and we've gone back to the drawing board, and we've seen a lot of where we can improve from last year, especially in the run game, so it's pretty exciting."

Having continuity under O'Connell's offensive system should be beneficial for Mattison as he enters a potential breakout season. Despite Cook's departure, much of the Vikings offense remains intact from last year's 13-win, NFC North-conquering season, and the same success could be had in 2023 should Mattison take full advantage of the opportunity ahead.

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