There were 312 kickoffs in the NFL this season heading into this weekend. Of those, 221 (70 percent) went for touchbacks. 

After Sunday's games, three teams — including the Bears — have yet to have a kickoff return. Half the league hasn't had a return go more than 25 yards. 

This is the NFL in 2019, with the league’s efforts to reduce the number of kick returns — for safety reasons — proving effective. It’s also meant the Bears haven’t been able to fully utilize Cordarrelle Patterson’s talents yet.

The 5,276 return yards Patterson has since entering the league in 2013 are by far the most in the NFL in that span (he’s about 1,500 yards ahead of Andre Roberts, who has the second-highest total). Patterson is the only player with more than two kick return touchdowns since 2013; he has six. Among players with at least 50 kick returns, Patterson’s average of 29.98 yards per return ranks No. 1, and he’s one of just 14 players to average more than 25 yards per return.

So Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor is itching to unleash Patterson on a return — as long as the opportunity presents itself.

“I want to bring the ball out, I really do,” Tabor said. “And there's going to come a time and point that we want to do that. You want to be able to put pressure on that coverage team. But I think you still have to be smart about when you're doing it.”

Patterson’s last kick return touchdown came last year while with the New England Patriots against the Bears, so this coaching staff has a good idea of how dangerous he can be on kickoffs. So do other teams, though — all four of Brandon McManus’ kickoffs last week went for deep touchbacks in the thin air of Denver, while all three of Mason Crosby’s kickoffs in Week 1 were deemed unreturnable and went for touchbacks.

"These kickers are getting paid a lot of money to try to kick the ball away from me," Patterson said. "And that's what they're doing. It's football. You can't always have everything you want."

The Bears don’t want to see Patterson return a kick so badly that they’d have him take one out from the back of the end zone, though. A drive starting on the 25-yard line from a touchback is more likely to be successful than a drive starting inside the 23-yard line, Tabor said. Still, the Tabor said the team is comfortable with Patterson attempting a return from eight or even close to nine yards deep in the end zone. 

With the Bears’ offense struggling — 13 of their 22 drives have ended with a punt — the team hopes it can get a spark from the return game to at least generate good field position.

“A lot of factors that go into that but if you don't bring it out you have zero chance of getting the ball past the 25,” Tabor said. “I think realistically for offenses, all offenses, 75-yard drives in the NFL just don't happen repeatedly so I think you have to try to get something sparked in the return game.”

But as long as temperatures remain warm — the forecasted temperature is in the upper 70’s for kickoff Monday night in Landover — it’ll be easier for kickers to blast touchbacks out of the end zone. And few, if any, of the league’s coaches and special teams coordinators will want to try to kick to Patterson.

So until weather conditions become a little more favorable for kickoff returns, there not anything Tabor can do to generate them.

“I wish I could,” Tabor said. “(Maybe) send the coach a nice bottle of wine or something.”