DAN BICKLEY

Patrick Peterson promises ‘big year’ that could change his Cardinals legacy

May 28, 2020, 6:07 PM | Updated: 6:08 pm
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rooms light up when Patrick Peterson smiles. Arizona is a better place. The Cardinals are a better team. The locker room is never short on energy or swagger.

Behold his decadent performance on Thursday, a 51-minute video press conference that made Peterson an instant Zoom legend:

“I’ve got a chip on my shoulder that’s bigger than it’s ever been,” Peterson said. “I can feel something special (coming).”

Oh, it gets better. Peterson said his goal is to become the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, echoing Tyrann Mathieu’s prediction of a “Savage Season” in 2015. Mathieu nearly spoke his award into existence, before a season-ending injury derailed an entire season.

Peterson faces a steeper climb. He rarely accumulates statistics or splash plays. He hasn’t scored multiple touchdowns in a season since his rookie year. His attempt to become a three-way star never achieved elevation. He’s a finesse player not known for tackling and highlight-reel hits. His best work normally involves a disappearing act, when he puts the opponent’s best wide receiver on the back of a milk carton.

As a result, his words are coming from a place of bravado, and nothing else. Sort of like David Johnson in recent years. Yet this much is also true:

Anything is possible with Peterson. Especially in a contract year. And this will be the first time he’s ever played a NFL season with his job and future earnings on the line.

“I feel I have something to prove,” he said. “This is going to be, I believe, an incredible, incredible year for me because the defense I believe is tailor-made for some of my strengths.”

Peterson has always talked a good game. No one should complain about that. He relishes the spotlight and produces great content. He loves being the center of attention.

His affability has waned in recent years. He requested a trade just as Steve Wilks was trying to establish credibility in Arizona. He was suspended six games under the NFL’s drug policy, which included two games for using masking agent. He became enraged at the organization all over again.

He finished strong in 2019, but only after an erratic and occasionally embarrassing return to the NFL. And he never really came clean about anything.

“For me to jump back into the thick of things, Superman maybe can do that, but I’m not Clark Kent,” Peterson said. “I might have some Superman moments or some Superman ways, but it just wasn’t happening for me. But once I got back in the groove, I felt unbelievable. And that’s what’s going to carry over to this year.

“I’m not really into, ‘Watch this (or) prove this.’ But I can promise you this: this is definitely going to be a big year. Just wait and see. To whoever doubting me or whoever don’t think I can still play at a high level, just wait and see.

Peterson’s giddiness is contagious, but it didn’t begin on Thursday. During a recent conversation with former NFL cornerback Bryant McFadden, he predicted the Cardinals would return for an encore Super Bowl appearance in Tampa. He’s raved about Steve Keim’s offseason performance, effusive in praise of an organization he so recently scorned.

Peterson also made it clear he wants to remain in Arizona, even though negotiations are non-existent at the moment. So he might be kissing up to his bosses, falling back in line, extending olive branches, hoping the Cardinals forgive, forget and re-sign their star cornerback to another huge contract. Or Peterson could be feeling truly optimistic for the first time in years, finally clear of the Wilks’ debacle, the PED stigmas and the sinking feeling that he was stuck on a hopeless football team.

Either way, it’s all good. Because we all lose when Peterson is withdrawn, frowning, and at his sullen worst. But in good times, he is one of the most affable, entertaining superstars in football.

We all need that. And he plans on making 2020 the best show of all.

His career in Arizona depends on it.

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