The Pro Bowl changed Patrick Peterson’s plans.
The punt returner, who leaves today for his initial trip to the NFL’s annual all-star game, was going to go to Hawaii in June. Seems that Peterson is getting married June 16, and the 50th state was going to be the honeymoon site.
Peterson is OK with the trade-off. The Pro Bowl was a goal, and he’s already reached it despite his youth (Peterson doesn’t turn 22 until July 11). Then again, he’s got a secondary Pro Bowl goal too – to get back to Hawaii as a cornerback.
“There are lots of goals to achieve,” Peterson said. “I can’t wait for football again.”
As good as Peterson was returning punts, the Cardinals need him to develop into the star corner many projected him to be. After a bumpy start Peterson’s play – like that of the entire defense – improved as the season progressed.
The Baltimore game – in which Peterson was put on speedster Torrey Smith to start and then moved over to cover Anquan Boldin after Boldin went off – was Peterson’s personal “ah-ha!” moment, a time in which he felt he finally understood what it would take and what would be expected of him in the NFL.
But it was the San Francisco games that stuck with Peterson the most. Niners receiver Michael Crabtree beat up Peterson pretty good in the game in San Francisco – it’s notable Peterson brings up the slippery grass when talking about his performance – but Peterson had what he believes was his best cover game against Crabtree during the teams’ second game in Arizona.
Peterson understands he has a “lot to learn,” though. That’s the attitude that convinces everyone around him that he will, indeed, learn.
“One of the hardest things for players to do is have a self-evaluation of what they are,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “A lot of times players, coaches, people in general think they are better than what they are. Patrick is very grounded. He knows he is gifted athletically, but he also understands the work he has to do to become the best.”
Peterson carries a maturity that has been noticed. Peterson credits his parents for teaching him self-awareness, and he feels a responsibility in being the example as the oldest of five siblings.
“You can tell Coach (Ray) Horton respects that kid a lot,” defensive end
Fitzgerald said the day he met Peterson he saw “the disposition of a 10-year vet. He has a quiet confidence about him and a maturity that you’d expect from a guy in the league a lot longer. I am pretty sure he will go (to the Pro Bowl) and go above and beyond.”
It took some encouragement from defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi for Peterson to be willing to speak up in the secondary. Peterson didn’t want to talk out of turn as a rookie. He even refrained from much trash talking on the field, he said, because of his first-year status. That, Peterson added, is probably going to change.
So too will how he approaches Hawaii, although his first trip will be a memorable one – even if it comes before, and not after, his wedding.
“I’m getting a chance to meet all these future Hall of Famers and hopefully get one of my jerseys signed by all of them,” Peterson said. “It’s going to be fun. I’ve never been in the same place as so many famous people at once, and now I am in the same category as them.”