Patrick Peterson played a round of golf in the Waste Management Phoenix Open Pro-Am on Wednesday, and the breaths of fresh air he took on the course seemed an apt metaphor for his current frame of mind.
The Cardinals’ star cornerback wanted out of the organization in late October, but on this picture-perfect day at TPC Scottsdale, he made clear his intention of sticking with the only franchise he has ever known.
“I just want to apologize to everybody for asking for that trade in the middle of the season,” Peterson told the crowd at the 16th hole. “I’m here to stay, baby.”
Peterson is feeling good again because he is optimistic about the current trajectory of the franchise. Peterson said he spoke with team president Michael Bidwill during the coaching search process, and the resulting hires – Kliff Kingsbury as head coach and Vance Joseph as defensive coordinator – are exactly what he envisioned.
“I think we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Peterson told azcardinals.com earlier in the day. “I’m happy with the decisions that ownership made this offseason.”
Peterson is always outwardly vibrant -- he signed autographs and took photos with anyone who asked on Wednesday -- but a few months ago, his megawatt smile was hiding frustration.
The losing took its toll on Peterson, as did a defensive scheme change that shelved his customary role of tracking the opponent’s best receiver in man-to-man coverage.
“It was definitely hard,” Peterson said.
General Manager Steve Keim made clear last month the team was returning to its 3-4 roots, which Peterson said is a better fit for him and the rest of the defensive personnel.
“Being the type of player I am, I put so much into it in the offseason, and obviously I work on taking receivers out,” Peterson said. “I was very limited in doing that, and that’s what keeps me in the game. That’s what keeps me energetic. I know I have something to look forward to on Sundays.
“Last year I kind of had that taken away from me, but now I think hiring Vance, and Mr. Bidwill getting some input from me, asking me what I think that can help this defense get back to what we were accustomed to doing -- that’s what they did in the offseason. We’re going to be in that 3-4, high-pressure, get-the-ball-out-of-the-quarterback’s-hand-quickly (style), and have me on the No. 1 receivers.”
Kingsbury’s teams at Texas Tech gave up a lot of points, but Peterson sees a clear demarcation in duties, with Joseph the coach of the defense while Kingsbury focuses on offense. Peterson has noticed the way the NFL is headed and is glad to have a coach with an innovative offensive mind.
“On paper, we look very, very good, having Kliff as the head coach and offensive coordinator,” Peterson said. “Everywhere he’s been, being able to put up 35-plus points, averaging 35 a game. Evidently in the league, that’s what you need. It speaks for itself. We weren’t able to get the ball in the end zone.”
It wasn’t long ago that Peterson envisioned a future away from the Cardinals. Now he can see himself playing his whole career for the team, helping lead a fruitful reboot.
“I definitely think I can, especially with the youth of our head coach and also the youth of this team,” Peterson said. “The sky is the limit for us. We just have to get the right pilot behind the plane to take us to the destination.”
Images of the Cardinals' star CB during the week of Pro Bowl festivities prior to Sunday's game