GLENDALE, Ariz. — Patrick Peterson says the debate over who is the best cornerback in the NFL will go on and on and his opinion will never change: He is the best.
“As a man, I can’t fathom putting another guy in front of me,” he said.
Peterson has jousted with Seattle’s Richard Sherman over which is the best at the position. Speaking at the Arizona Cardinals’ training camp on Sunday, Peterson also mentioned two others “in the conversation,” Joe Haden of Cleveland and Darrelle Revis of New England.
“All of us have the ability to be the best in the league,” Peterson said. “And all of us are the best at something at the cornerback position. I believe that the competition is real, and I love it. It’s just going to make all four of us play that much better and that much harder.”
Peterson, entering his fourth NFL season, said he has been told he won’t return punts or play on offense this season — and that will help him focus entirely on his cornerback job.
The arrival of Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie John Brown factored in Peterson giving up both jobs. Ginn and Brown are both exceedingly fast punt returners and give the offense speed at the wide receiver position that it lacked last season.
Peterson said he’s fine surrendering both duties.
“Guarding the No. 1 receiver each and every week is tough enough as it is,” he said, “and (then) have to worry ‘Is the punter going to punt this way or get it end over end this week? Coach has five plays in the package this week,’ it’s just going to make my job that much easier.”
Punt returning made Peterson an instant sensation in the NFL after the Cardinals drafted him as the No. 5 pick overall in 2011, tying the league record of four returns for touchdown. One was a 99-yarder — second-longest in NFL history — to beat the St. Louis Rams in overtime.
His spectacular returns earned him a spot on the Pro Bowl as a special teams player. He hasn’t had a punt return for a score since.
Although he said he has been told he won’t be the team’s punt returner, he is participating in return drills in camp. Peterson said that’s a precaution in case anything happens to Ginn or Brown.
As his punt return success diminished, his reputation as a cornerback grew. He has defended the opponent’s best receiver, regardless of what side of the field he is on. And he made the Pro Bowl at the position each of the past two seasons.
Leaving punt returns and the offense to others should only help him in his real job, he said.
“I think that’s just going to take my game to another level now,” he said, “because now I don’t have to focus on the punt return, try to remember the offensive plays, or things like that. I can just hone in on playing defensive back and being the best player that I can be.”
He already believes no one is better.
“Do I feel I’m the best cornerback? Absolutely,” he said. “That answer is never going to change, but at the end of the day that conversation is going to always come up.”
Peterson wants to get paid as if he is the best, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Sherman has a new four-year, $58 million contract, $40 million guaranteed. Haden got a five-year, $68 million extension, $45 million guaranteed.
But because Peterson was a first-round pick, the Cardinals had a fifth-year option on his contract, and they have exercised it. Big money is on the horizon, and Peterson says his agent Joel Segal and the Cardinals still are talking. But nothing looks imminent.
Peterson insists he isn’t disappointed.
“Not at all,” he said. “I’m here to play football, got two years left on my deal and I want to do the best I can to help this team win. I haven’t been to the playoffs since I’ve been here. That’s my first goal and that’s what I’m focusing on is football. The contract stuff, we’ll see what happens.”