Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson peers in at the line of scrimmage on Saturday against the Bears.
Patrick Peterson speaks with the wisdom of a grizzled veteran.
The Cardinals' All-Pro cornerback is entering his seventh NFL season and knows the pitfalls that face players in the second half of their careers. That's why he's being proactive to hold off Father Time.
"I'm lighter than I've ever been," Peterson said. "I (am) lighter even than when I came back off the 2014 season (and a Diabetes diagnosis). I'm at 201 (pounds) right now. As I get older, I want to make sure I keep that weight down. … Once you get older, your body doesn't react to certain things like it used to. You don't recover as fast as you used to, so I have to make sure I'm staying on top of those things so I can play as long as I want."
Peterson might sound like the guy at the YMCA who straps on a knee brace and does 10 minutes of stretching before his pickup basketball game, but he's still far from the rapid decline phase. In actuality, 2017 may be the pinnacle of his athletic prime.
Despite more than a half-decade in the NFL, Peterson is still only 27, the age at which Pro Football Reference's approximate value calculator believes cornerbacks are at their best.
"I'm still not at my peak yet," Peterson said. "'I'm just getting there."
Coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer have both deemed this Peterson's best training camp, which is a scary proposition for opposing quarterbacks. Peterson has made five consecutive Pro Bowls on defense and is widely classified as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
"It's one thing to come out and be good every day, but he practiced harder and better than I've ever seen him," Arians said.
Peterson still has the jaw-dropping natural talent, but his work ethic is also drawing rave reviews. Cardinals star running back David Johnson, a gym rat himself, said there has always been one car waiting for him in the parking lot at the team facility.
"I never beat Pat," Johnson said. "I'd get there about 6:30 in the morning and try to get work in. I'm coming in and he's leaving. I don't know what time he was there, I just know he gets a full workout in as I'm coming in."
Peterson plays a unique position, one in which the stat sheet doesn't tell the story. He is adamant about once again tracking the opponent's No. 1 receiver this season, where a quiet day is a successful one.
"At my position now, it's all about what I give up, not what I get," Peterson said. "It would be great for me to get some interceptions, great for me to get some touchdowns, but when you don't get many opportunities, it's hard to fulfill that void or that goal that you put out there for yourself."
Advanced numbers show Peterson's impact, and the accolades have always been quick to follow. While he's not going to finish with an obscene number of career interceptions – Peterson picked off seven passes in 2012 but hasn't surpassed three in any other season – he is always on the short-list of shutdown corners.
If he continues on this path, Peterson is primed to join the conversation of all-time greats.
"I play the game to not only be remembered, but to be the best to play at my position," Peterson said. "Obviously I know the NFL has a long history of great players, great defensive backs. One of them actually is my idol, Deion Sanders. Rod Woodson, the list goes on. That's why I play the game. I'm chasing those guys."
Images from the final practice of #CardsCamp