GLENDALE, Ariz. —
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is heading into a contract year. He says it’s really the first time he’s been in this situation, potentially heading into a season with an unknown future beyond it.
While the 8-time Pro Bowler and 3-time All-Pro, drafted by Arizona in 2011, says he’s not keen on forcing a “watch this, prove this” attitude, he says he’s ready to have a big year, not just for himself, but for his team as well.
Peterson sat down with media via Zoom on Thursday and spoke for nearly an hour about a wide range of topics including his high expectations for this upcoming Cardinals team and how he plans to continue to grow his own game after somewhat of a down year last season, when he was suspended for the first six games.
Peterson will turn 30 years old in July and his contract is up after next season. While he says he’s optimistic about getting a deal done with the Cardinals, he doesn’t plan on any contract talks during the year if a deal doesn’t get done pre-season because he doesn’t want the distraction.
“They know what I bring to the table, not only my leadership but on the football field and in the classroom, the locker room,” Peterson said. “They understand what I mean to this organization so obviously if they want to make it right and want to keep me here, they’ll do that. But that’s out of my control.”
Peterson also says he wants to stay with Arizona for the rest of his career. In 2018, during the Steve Wilks’ lone-year leading the Cardinals, reports came out that Peterson asked for a trade. It's something he later apologized publicly for.
Peterson says playing in Steve Wilks’ 4-3 scheme that had him playing off really wasn’t his forte in 2018. He added that when he returned from suspension in 2019, with a new coaching staff again and a new scheme, again, he wasn’t coming into it with a clear mind.
“Towards the back end of the season, once I understood the defense, once I understood what the coaches were looking for out of me...my athletic ability, my skillset is still there,” Peterson said. “My burning passion and fire is still there. I was playing with a lot of uncertainty, but once I got my legs back, once I got in the groove, once I got that timing down…I felt unbelievable and that’s what’s going to carry over into this year.”
Peterson says he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder like never before. And while the cornerback recently made the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2010s and has cemented himself in the record books, he says he’s been in positions to prove himself other times in his career and this year won’t be different.
“I’m not really into ‘watch this, prove this’ but I can promise you, this is definitely gonna be a big year. Just wait and see. To whoever doubts me or doesn’t think I can still play at a high level, just wait and see.”
"Sky's the limit"
Part of Peterson’s commitment to the organization falls in his pleasure with Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim and their commitment to improving facilities in Arizona throughout the years and building championship-caliber rosters, something he believes Keim has done again heading into 2020.
Peterson gave Keim credit for starting the offseason with a “bang” in the trade that brought wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona.
“The sky’s the limit for this football team,” Peterson says. “But it’s gonna come back to the players. If we all can trust, believe and commit to one another for just one common goal for 17 weeks, get into the playoffs, regroup and run the table. I truly believe we can go as far as we want.”
Peterson says the difference between the current roster and the roster when the Cardinals last went to the playoffs, in 2015, is the youth on the current roster.
He also noted that getting cornerback Robert Alford back, who sat out all last year due to injury, will be “huge for us.”
Going into another year with the same coaching staff and with Kyler Murray heading into his second season, Peterson expects big things.
“I believe this is gonna be a big year for (Murray). We all know he hasn’t even scratched the surface yet and some of the things he was able to do, some of the comeback wins he was able to have and some of the game performances he was able to have last year, I thought spoke to how good he wanted to be,” Peterson said. “I tell him all the time, ‘as good as you are, that’s how good this football team is going to be.’”
Noting the backfield of Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds and his top three receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, Peterson says Murray is going to be licking his chops.
“Kyler’s going to be like a kid in a candy store, Peterson said. “He’s going to be able to pick whatever candy that he wants. He’ll have the opportunity to throw touchdowns to Fitz, red zone Fitz, take his shots with DeAndre and then you got “trick ‘em” plays and gadget plays and down the field shots as well with Christian.”
“If you’re trying to build a championship-caliber football team. We have the players, I believe this is that type of roster,” he continued.
Regarding head coach Kliff Kingsbury, Peterson says he has all the tools to make the Cardinals one of the most dangerous offenses the NFL has to offer.
“(Kingsbury) is definitely a mad scientist when it comes to making plays work, a lot of Andy Reid in him. He has it all. He has an intermediate pass game, he has down the field pass game and I believe that’s what makes him dangerous. It’s not like one thing that the Arizona Cardinals do well. Especially with (Murray) at quarterback, there’s so many things that you have to defend.”
Peterson wasn’t shy about the potential he believes the Cards have for 2020 and he’s ecstatic to be a part of it. In the NFL, a team only has so much time to compete for a championship before the structure of that team changes, and he believes the time for Arizona is now.
“In the NFL, you only have so many windows and you have to take advantage of those windows,” he said. “We have that culture back. This is what I missed, and this is definitely what I want to be around.”
"Chip on my shoulder"
Peterson reaffirmed his confidence in his own game heading into 2020. While he’s heading into his 10th NFL season, he says there won’t be a difference in how team have to gameplan for him.
“You can ask guys all around this league, offensive coordinators, players, when it comes to 21 for the Arizona Cardinals, they have to alter their gameplan,” Peterson said.
The cornerback mentioned that there are only a few receivers in the league that will play him outside the numbers, where he can press them without running through traffic.
“The Rams and the 49ers are cut-slip teams. You know why? Because they don’t like people like myself putting hands on their receivers,” Peterson said.
“There’s only three receivers that would take me outside Calvin (Johnson) was one of them, Julio Jones is one and A.J. Green and Odell Beckham,” he continued. “Everybody else, gotta motion them, gotta have them in the cut-split, run rub routes, run screens. I’m probably the only cornerback that has the most screens and has to run through the most traffic every week.”
Peterson said the Cardinals defensive performance, and his own performance, in the final seven weeks of the 2019 season proved that he and the rest of the defense can perform at a high level.
Whether an extension or a new deal is ready for him preseason, he reaffirmed it doesn’t make a difference. Be believes he will prove again that he remains one of the best corners in the league.
“I think this is going to be a big year for me, I’m excited,” Peterson said. “I’ve got a chip on my shoulder that’s bigger than it’s ever been. With this being my 10th year, I'm very optimistic, I can feel something special.”