TEMPE, Ariz. — The “C” found in the upper right corner in the front of Patrick Peterson’s jersey signifies that he is a team captain.
This is the first season the four-time Pro Bowler has held the designation, and he’s not taking his responsibilities lightly.
Following the Cardinals’ 19-13 win over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, head coach Bruce Arians announced to his team, “We have to have a little more focus as this week goes along, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.” He was referencing what is known as “Victory Monday,” where the coach gives his veterans an extra day off as a reward for their hard-earned win.
But Peterson was having none of it.
“Hold on, woah, defense, we’ll be in there at 11,” the cornerback said. “We’ve got to fix this.”
An extra day off? No, not this time.
“It’s by me, the captain,” Peterson said of the decision. “I have to make sure our guys are ready for this run of the season. These next five games are very important. If we want to be home for playoff games, we have to make sure we win them. Minnesota is playing good ball. Although Green Bay lost, they’re playing good ball.
“We have to play those guys eventually, so we have to make sure we win those games. We have to start out fast and have good energy so we can give ourselves a good chance to win.”
The Cardinals allowed the 49ers to score just 13 points Sunday, but San Francisco did accumulate 368 total net yards. They came into the game averaging fewer than 290, so it’s understandable why Peterson may feel his group needs some work.
“That’s what captains do,” Arians said. “My understanding is that it was a very good meeting and they had all the coaches’ notes and went through it play by play. We only gave up 13 points, but still we’re accustomed to playing better.”
Safety Tyrann Mathieu did not mind the captain’s call.
“It’s a leadership thing and you know defensively we feel like we relax at times,” he said. “I think it’s because our offense is scoring so much and we didn’t necessarily have that attitude in the past.
“So I think we need to get back to that. We’ve given up a lot of touchdowns in the red zone. Different things we have to work on. So I felt Pat — I think most guys in the locker room understood where he was coming from.”
It helps that most of the guys in the locker room were on last year’s team, which started 9-1 but slumped at the end of the year and bowed out quietly in the Wild Card round in part due to the defense’s struggles. Mathieu said the entire defense showed up Monday, including Cory Redding and Frostee Rucker, who did not play because of injury, as well as the team’s practice squad players.
“I think it says a lot about Patrick and his leadership,” Mathieu said. “When he says something, people do it.”
On a lot of other teams, Peterson’s request — or, rather, demand — may have been met with more eye rolls and groans. But for a Cardinals team with eyes on a Super Bowl, any chance to get better or stave off a late-season slump is something they will try and take advantage of.
That it was Peterson who spoke up was not only a sign of the respect he holds in the locker room, but also how he has embraced and grown in his role as a leader. Arians, who is in his third season with the Cardinals, said he saw those traits in his first year with the team but it was tougher for the player last year as he dealt with a variety of injuries that impacted his play on the field.
“But this year, it’s been fantastic,” he said.
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