When Patrick Peterson first showed up in Tempe, it was like an oasis in the desert for me, given that the lockout of 2011 was deeply entrenched and there had been no players (and would be no players) for the duration of the offseason.
Peterson, who had yet to sign an NFL contract and therefore wasn't locked out, came in for the usual first-round pick press conference. I first met him when he went out on the practice field, having a one-on-one conversation with then-strength coach John Lott.
It was the beginning – whether some want to acknowledge it or not – of a great career as a Cardinal.
Yes, Peterson had some things get sideways at the end of his tenure. The suspension for PEDs hurt his reputation, especially on the heels of his trade request that became public. No, it wasn't the way Larry Fitzgerald would've handled things, and fair or not, that's the standard by which most fans measure their Cardinals.
Yes, his skills aren't the same that they were in his prime, because, you know, we all age.
But at his best, he was arguably the best. Too often, it feels like that was overlooked.
That first year, when he was still learning how to cover guys in this league, he won games on special teams, turning every punt return into must-watch TV and scoring on four of them – including a 99-yarder in which you shook your head that the rookie was even fielding a punt on his own 1 and yet turning it into points. (And I'm guessing he still sees Seahawks punter Jon Ryan in his nightmares because P2 had the record fifth TD in the finale if he had just slipped past Ryan.)
By his second year, he showed why he was a top-five pick in an incredibly excellent 2011 draft (Cam went No. 1, Von Miller went No. 2, Julio Jones went No. 6, and new Cardinals A.J. Green and J.J. Watt went 4 and 11, respectively.) Peterson's interception totals were never gaudy, not after that second year when he made seven picks, but it was in large part because teams stopped throwing his way, much to the chagrin to whomever was playing opposite him.
That was something to remember too: Peterson never had the same No. 2 cornerback to team with two years in a row in his decade here; Jerraud Powers re-upped in 2015 after 2013 but that spot turned into the Cards' white whale – all the while the team leaning on Peterson to hold it down otherwise.
He's a big reason the Cardinals took a chance on Tyrann Mathieu, too. And a big reason Mathieu has succeeded. The Honey Badger has said as such.
He made a difference in the community, with his "Patrick's Corner" reading areas in many local schools to encourage literacy among young kids.
P2 was flashy, yes, but that was just him. He had an ego, but nothing out of the ordinary for most athletes. He could get emotional, and sometimes that was about fun and hype, and sometimes, when things weren't going well, it could lead to stuff you didn't want – like a trade request. For whatever reason, I never understood why so many in the fan base had issues with him, especially when he was at the top of his game.
The Peterson I knew was friendly, and almost always was smiling. If you had something to ask, he'd listen and give you an answer. I'll miss getting to talk to him every day in the locker room. You know, in non-pandemic times.
I don't think the door was closed on coming back to the Cardinals until the moment he accepted the Vikings’ offer. He wanted to stay if it worked. It just didn't. Such is the business. Whatever the reasons he picked Minnesota – and if it was just the $10 million, who could blame him? – it really isn't a shock he is gone, not after the wait-and-see approach the Cards took this season.
I hope he gets all the cheers when the Vikings come to play in Arizona this season. I think he's got a chance to be a Hall of Famer one day. I'd guess he'll end up in the Ring of Honor.
He earned that.