Patrick Peterson looking to seamlessly jump back into Cardinals’ mix
TEMPE, Ariz. — Whenever players undergo an injury, get suspended or have any prolonged period time off from team activities, there’s always that feeling of: how long?
How long until they are game ready physically and up to full speed? How long until they get fully synced back in with teammates?
Those questions won’t be answered until the product on the field is seen, but Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is feeling like he hasn’t missed a step after serving his six-game suspension.
“The reason [my suspension] I believe flew by was because I was able to kinda assimilate weeks of practice,” Peterson said. “On Sundays, I simulated the games as well. I kept my mind in the game, made sure I was mentally sharp, my conditioning, everything that was necessary to make sure I was ready to roll once [Wednesday] came around.”
He may not have been allowed in the Cardinals’ training facility until Oct. 14, but that didn’t stop him from utilizing the state around him.
Instead of getting in reps in the desert heat, the CB headed up north to Northern Arizona University, using the elevation to his advantage.
“I went back to my old stomping grounds, I went back to NAU,” Peterson said. “I was up in Flagstaff, a little altitude training, beat the heat a little bit. So it was great to be back up there in Flagstaff and get some great work in that nice cool weather and also in that altitude.”
For Peterson, that work consisted of a field, two cones and a weekly training regiment, running various routes to mimic guarding receivers and simulating game flow by splitting up 55-65 snaps over “four quarters” to better equip his body to avoid any potential drop-off once back in the mix.
But even with the routine to keep his eyes off the clock, having to watch the first six weeks of the season on TV was something Peterson hadn’t envisioned doing this early in his career. It was especially frustrating to see his team struggling defensively without his presence.
“I definitely felt like I could have had a helping hand in a lot of those games, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to be there to help my brothers,” Peterson said.
“But now, like I told Kyler [Murray] when I first came back, he understands how to win football games now. Now as a defense, we have to take the next step and it starts with finishing football games because [Murray] can do it. Now it’s on us to hold up our end of the responsibility and keeping people out of the end zone.”
The return of Peterson to Arizona’s sideline will undoubtedly aid a defense that has failed to stop the aerial attack. As a team, the Cardinals have given up the fourth-most points per game (28.5), allowing a league-high 16 touchdowns through the air and averaging an opposing QBR of 121.8 (second-worst).
And let’s not forget the turnovers, or lack thereof, in the secondary. Through six games, the Cardinals are the only NFL team to not record an interception, something Peterson has his sights set on.
“It was a piece of cake,” Peterson said when asked about his full day of practice.
“It literally felt like walk-through for me because I don’t know if I was so geeked, the anxiety, I don’t know what it was. It felt like I didn’t practice today. I felt really, really well, I had a great bounce in my step today. Just ready to get out there and face some live action so hopefully I can be the first one to get an interception on this defense.”
And while Peterson’s numbers speak for themselves, it’s not just the play on the field that’s been missed by the Cardinals.
“The leadership, the communication that he brings, whether it’s on the field or off the field, whether we’re in the film room, he’s talking,” safety Budda Baker said Wednesday. “He’s giving the young guys all types of little things that they can help their game on as well. I’m very excited to have him back.”
But Peterson being back at the team’s facility doesn’t come without some questions surrounding the cornerback’s future with the team.
Ahead of the team’s Week 6 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Peterson’s name came up in trade calls from at least three teams, but the Cardinals have insisted the CB is not on the trading block. Peterson requested a trade midseason in 2018, only to apologize, citing frustration. This season, he didn’t attend voluntary minicamp, causing more speculation.
“I have no idea,” Peterson said when asked about trade rumors. “I’m here, I have a contract with the Cardinals for these 10 games and next season. Whatever happens after that is pretty much out of my control. I’m here preparing for the Giants and preparing for the other nine games that we have on the schedule, and I’m just happy to be back to help my guys get better.
“We have a lot of football left, October is the meat of the season and I’m focusing on that right now. It should be a great 10-game season for me. I’m planning on this being the best 10 games I’ve played in my career.”
Peterson on if he learned anything about himself during his suspension:
“Not really, what you see is what you get. This is me. Obviously that period, I really just hope that didn’t tarnish what I stand for, what I’ve done up until this point in my career.
“I have no reason to cheat, I work my tail off too hard each and every offseason to be in this position. It’s just an unfortunate situation that I wish I could have back but I can’t. I’m moving forward and looking forward to the Giants.”