Corey Peters came close to scoring a touchdown — his first of his career – before the officials took it away, but the Cardinals defensive tackle didn't seem to care.
Peters' only goal had been to be ready for Week One. The emotions of simply playing after rupturing his patellar tendon, recuperating, and finally re-signing with the Cardinals -- when it wasn't a foregone conclusion -- were intense enough.
"Honestly, the experience for me on Sunday was so much excitement about being back out there and just to be playing again," Peters said. "So, once the game started and I was out there playing, that was good enough for me. To have the opportunity to recover a fumble and help the team was really the icing on the cake. And, now, we're just looking to build on that."
Peters faced similar injuries before, with the Falcons in 2013 and Cardinals in 2015, when he tore his Achilles and lost those seasons. Peters re-lived the experience last season in Week 10 against the Bills with a devastating injury. This time, the damage occurred during a contract year, making the recovery process worse.
Teams weren't going to re-sign a 33-year-old until he was healthy. Peters had some interest around the league, but until he was able to show he was able in a brief workout with the Cardinals during training camp, he wasn't sure if he'd have a job. The Cards re-signed him Aug. 2.
"It was incredibly difficult," Peters said. "Obviously, when you have a major injury, a lot of the process is taking a step forward and two steps backwards, so it can be very frustrating, like a roller coaster of emotions. Then obviously with the contract situation, not being on the team created more stress."
The Cards had added J.J. Watt to a defensive line that was trying to bring along young talent, and adding Peters to the room only helped the maturity level. It showed Sunday against the Titans and Peters played his part.
The Cardinals held Titans All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to 58 meaningless yards on 17 carries. Peters himself had two tackles for loss.
As the world celebrated the historical performance of linebacker Chandler Jones, coach Kliff Kingsbury couldn't help but notice Peters' impact.
"He's such a great presence in that room, such a great leader," he said. I thought he had some real impactful plays. And that group is playing at a high level. Coach 'Buck' (Brentson Buckner) has got them rocking and rolling and they haven't skipped a beat. Even without Jordan Phillips, who's one of the key contributors, that group has really stepped up to the challenge."
Notching his own touchdown would've been nice -- Peters dove for the goalline in his best Chase Edmonds impersonation -- but he was willing to live with the Kyler Murray-to-DeAndre Hopkins TD connection a few plays later.
"I would've been more bummed had the offense not cash in that drive in for us for seven," Peters said. "But once we scored all was well.
"As I said, just to get back out there with the guys and to be able to play again, I don't think anything could've taken that feeling away from me."
Images from the 2021 regular-season opener between the Cardinals and Titans in Nashville.