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Dan Bickley

Cardinals’ next 10 games may decide Peterson’s future in Arizona

Cornerback Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field following the NFL game against the New York Giants at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. The Arizona Cardinals won 23-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Patrick Peterson has served his time. He’s out of NFL jail and back with the Cardinals. He’s cleared to play once again.

His return should sound a lot different.

Celebratory?

Yes, it should be a joyous occasion, for all of us. Peterson is a great player with an ebullient personality. His smile lights up his surroundings, including a secondary room that’s been dark for too long.

He is joining a team seeking its first three-game winning streak since 2015. He has been given the kind of platform Peterson lives for: returning a hero for a defense struggling to shut down opponents and finish football games.

He’s parachuting into a new regime fueled by new hope and the star power of Kyler Murray, the current NFC Offensive Player of the week. The veteran cornerback can provide much-needed leadership, on and off the field, to a franchise that suddenly possesses a bright and exciting future.

You wouldn’t know it by Peterson’s demeanor with the media.

“I’m here. I have a contract with the Cardinals for these 10 games and next season,” Peterson said. “Whatever happens after that is pretty much out of my control. I’m here preparing for the Giants and the other nine games on the schedule. I’m just happy to be back to help my guys.”

Parting words? Maybe. But this guy once cared enough about Valley sports fans to famously apologize on the 16th tee of the Waste Management Phoenix Open Pro-Am.

Now? It doesn’t sound like he’s feeling it.

Gratitude? Yeah, there should be some of that, too.

Peterson was suspended for six games by the NFL, putting his team and another first-year head coach in a precarious position. The first four games were for violating the NFL’s policy regarding performance-enhancing drugs, something we never expected from the charismatic football star who seemed so flawless and organic, who made it look so easy.

Even worse, the additional two games were for compounding the initial offense. By definition, this includes attempting to elude, dilute or cover up the initial test, a decision generally spawned from desperation or poor character. That’s not the Peterson I know.

For all of these reasons, you would think there would be some sheepishness. Shame. A touch of remorse. Apologists will claim he’s already expressed regret for the six-game suspension. Or that he’s merely negotiating for his next contract extension, playing hardball like Russell Wilson.

Yeah, OK. Except the Cardinals’ defense has blown a 14-point lead and a 17-point lead in the past two games. Peterson could’ve prevented all of that. Maybe the Cardinals would’ve beaten the Lions with Peterson in the Week 1 lineup. Either way, icy detachment is not the fast lane to a contract extension from Michael Bidwill.

For proof, look in Arizona’s Ring of Honor, where you’ll find Carson Palmer, a great ambassador and gushing fan of the Bidwill family. Where you won’t find Anquan Boldin, who divorced himself from the organization over principle and recently retired as a Raven.

Hopefully, I’m wrong. But I see an organization that has deeply angered Peterson twice in the span of two years. That includes trade demands that have never been refuted and wounds that have never fully healed. I’ve seen a star player throw a wrench into the previous rookie NFL head coach, angering the Cardinals’ hierarchy to no end, and a player who makes Kingsbury’s job even more difficult.

It’s also a garden-variety business in the NFL, where happy endings are extremely rare. Lest we forget, the Cardinals made Kurt Warner take a free-agency visit to San Francisco for leverage after he led one of the worst organizations in sports all the way to the Super Bowl. Not everyone can be Larry Fitzgerald.

But given the two-year trend of this story and recent tone of his comments, it’s fair to wonder about Peterson’s heart and soul. Namely, where they’re currently located.

Stakes have been raised in the past 72 hours. The Rams just traded three draft picks, including two first-round selections, for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey. According to sources, the Eagles and Saints would covet a player like Peterson to put them over the top in the NFC arms race.

The Cardinals have steadfastly insisted they are not trading Peterson, and I believe nothing of significance will happen until the offseason. Meanwhile, Peterson has vowed to give the team “the best 10 games of his career.”

In a worst-case scenario, you hope Peterson will remain the consummate professional and not sabotage the new coaching staff.

I’ll believe that when I see his signature on a new contract. Or at the very least, one of those million-dollar smiles that used to come so easy for a star cornerback in Arizona.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier