DAN BICKLEY

Patrick Peterson era with Cardinals ended long before CB joined Vikings

Mar 18, 2021, 6:25 PM | Updated: Mar 19, 2021, 7:33 am
Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals prepares to take the field for the NFL game against t...
Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals prepares to take the field for the NFL game against the Detroit Lions at State Farm Stadium on December 09, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

An era ended long before Patrick Peterson signed with the Vikings.

That happened two years ago, when Peterson reneged on his last truly great moment in Arizona, a public apology delivered to 20,000 people on the No. 16 hole of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, when he burrowed his way back into our collective hearts.

That was the day we thought Peterson would be a Forever Cardinal.

Instead, he stirred up even more trouble for another new head coach. He welcomed Kliff Kingsbury by blowing off voluntary workouts. Those actions preceded a six-game PED suspension, when Peterson had the audacity to ask the team to help mitigate his financial losses during his NFL-enforced hiatus.

That was when Peterson lost the common football fan in Arizona. That’s when we closed the book on him.

Wednesday was just a formality. An inevitability. The end of the road.

In his prime, I adored Peterson. His smile was high voltage. His personality was infectious. He loved to laugh. He loved to brag. He loved thrilling the media with his Deion-like quotes. Sometimes, his mouth would move faster than his brain, and he’d mix his metaphors or use malapropisms. Either way, he was a tremendous entertainer.

One time, I caught up with him as he walked off the No. 18 green at the TPC Scottsdale. I asked him what he thought about his previous season. He was beaming.

“Those receivers I was covering? Where are they now?” he said jokingly. “I put them on the back of milk cartons!”

I’ve rarely seen him happier. I miss that guy.

His demeanor changed in recent years. Grumpy Pat was not something I anticipated when the Valley was spellbound by Peterson’s arrival.

As a rookie, he returned four punts for touchdowns. One of them was a 99-yard walk-off punt return in overtime. Do you have any idea what that means?

It means Peterson had the audacity to field a punt at his own 1-yard line. In overtime. He had the mad talent to turn mistakes into victories.

He also had the audacity to point to his family in the crowd while returning an interception.

He loved group photos in the end zone after Arizona’s defense forced a turnover, even if his team was losing by three touchdowns.

At peak confidence, he attempted to become a rare three-way player in the NFL, shooting to be a star performer on defense, offense and special teams. He captured imaginations, dared quarterbacks to throw in his direction (they wouldn’t) and elicited one of the best gestures of sportsmanship I’ve ever witnessed.

Entering Week 17 of his rookie season, most opposing coaches were done punting the football to Peterson. But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll felt otherwise. He knew Peterson was one touchdown removed from an all-time record. Carroll decided the honorable thing was to kick the ball to Peterson, affording the rookie a chance at NFL immortality.

Peterson nearly pulled it off, but was taken down by a touchdown-saving tackle from Seattle punter Jon Ryan.

Back then, anything and everything seemed possible — when Peterson was driven by sunshine and joy, when the first half of his Arizona career was full of happy Hall of Fame content.

The second half is a dumpster fire aboard the Titanic. His play slipped. So did his leadership and attitude. His punt returns became business decisions. There was very little magic anywhere on the field. Even the smiles seemed strained and arduous.

I’m going to forget that stuff. I’m going to look forward to the day the Cardinals induct Peterson into their Ring of Honor. When we get to see that million-dollar smile one more time. When we all remember fondly what we once had together, and not what could’ve been.

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