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Already A Star, Patrick Peterson Still Chases Validation

Pro Bowl cornerback works not just on game but on reputation

Cornerback Patrick Peterson remains on his quest to be considered the best in the game.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson remains on his quest to be considered the best in the game.

Patrick Peterson smiles, because frankly, there are rarely times when he is not smiling.

The seriousness of the subject for the Pro Bowl cornerback, however, should not be lost. He isn't thrilled he has failed to get back to the All-Pro status he reached after the 2015 season, despite believing his level of play has not only been excellent but actually has improved.  

"That's why I play the game," Peterson said. "I play the game to be the best."

He wants to be noticed as such.

"If I am taking the receiver out of the game, regardless who is on the other side, obviously we know numbers and you want to go with your best matchup," Peterson said. "But if the number one receiver (for the opponent) is not happy, what more can I do?"

The reference was to Peterson's lack of gaudy interception statistics. Peterson had just one interception last season. That's costly when it comes to gaining voting attention from media members, and Peterson knows it. He sees his peers putting him in the Pro Bowl every year of his career and appreciates that validation.

So Peterson has made it a mission to, for lack of a better phrase, educate the world. Hoping people will work more in "dissecting" cornerback play, Peterson turned his Super Bowl week of sponsor-related interviews into a personal plea.

He points to the Pro Football Focus stats that show Peterson getting targeted once every 21.2 snaps he played coverage last season, by far the fewest targets by any cornerback playing at least 75 percent of the time. He allowed just 0.66 yards per cover snap, and only 28 catches all season, again the fewest of any corner playing 75 percent of the time.

"Ask any offensive coordinator," Peterson said. "I alter game plans."

Such frustration isn't just for show. "I think it really matters to him," safety Antoine Bethea said.

"If he doesn't see himself as the No. 1 corner on everybody's list, it's something he feels like he needs to prove," Bethea added. "He's been doing it for going on eight or nine years (and) traveling for eight or nine years, know what I'm saying? And then you put the percentages up and you see how often they go at him and the percentages they put up, it's a no-brainer to me."

Peterson may be able to lean on more than analytics this season. Steve Wilks' new defense should allow Peterson the chance to get a few more stats, whether it is an occasional blitz off the edge for a potential sack or playing with a little more zone to have eyes on the quarterback more often.

But both Peterson and Wilks downplayed the idea Peterson would suddenly stop being the travelin' man tasked in shadowing the top receivers in the league.

"He is one of the guys I feel can take half the field away," Wilks said, saying that if teams refuse to throw at Peterson, that can only help the Cardinals.

"He's frustrated," Wilks said, "but that's the price of being great."

Peterson would just like voters to do more than just write in the names of the corners on the best teams each season, wishing for more nuance.

"This day and age, people just look at right now and they don't look at the big picture and the work he's put in," Bethea said. "He's definitely on his way to Canton."

Images from the first padded practice of training camp on Monday

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