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Contract Or Not, Patrick Peterson Preparing For 'Incredible Year'

Cornerback goes into last year of deal aiming for NFL Defensive Player of Year

Cornerback Patrick Peterson said he isn't going to let his contract situation become a distraction to a team that has Super Bowl hopes.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson said he isn't going to let his contract situation become a distraction to a team that has Super Bowl hopes.

Since his previous extension came early, Patrick Peterson hasn't played in a contract year before, but the cornerback insists he won't let that impact his 2020 season.

If the veteran, who turns 30 in July, can accomplish his big goals – among them, his goal is to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year – a new contract won't be an issue.

"I feel I have something to prove," Peterson said Thursday during a Zoom press conference that lasted nearly an hour. "I think this will be an incredible year for me because the defense, I believe, is tailor-made for some of my strengths.

"I just feel like this year can be special not only for me but for this football team."

Peterson reiterated he wants to remain with the Cardinals long-term, although there have not been much with contract discussions as of yet. He is scheduled to make about $12.5 million in salary and bonus this year, "good enough money" that he doesn't want the contract to become a distraction for a Cardinals' team he believes can compete for a Super Bowl.

Saying he is "very optimistic" a new deal can be reached, he said he thinks the Cardinals know what he means to the team and the organization. He also said he thinks staying in Arizona and playing in the warmer weather could actually help extend his career, and praised the work owner Michael Bidwill has done to run the franchise and the offseason moves of general manager Steve Keim.

Because of the potential distraction, Peterson said he would want to table any contract talks if something isn't agreed upon by the start of the regular season.

"I'm not worried about no contract," Peterson said. "If it happens, it happens. I'm worried about going out there every Sunday, whoever my assignment is, not letting them breathe."

After a 2019 season ruined by his six-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, Peterson is clearly in a better place than he has been for the last two seasons.

He had lost the comfort level he had built under the defenses of Todd Bowles and James Bettcher. He never liked the zone-heavy role under Al Holcomb when Steve Wilks was hired, and the suspension undercut any real chance for his transition to Vance Joseph – Peterson noted he went about 10 weeks without any NFL competition from Week 2 of the preseason until his return.

Peterson played poorly when he first came back, but looked like the Peterson of old over the last month.

"I didn't lose anything," Peterson said. "I didn't make (the) All-Decade (team) for no reason. They don't just hand those out. My athletic ability, my skillset is still there. My burning passion and fire is still there.

"For me to jump back in the thick of things, maybe Superman can do that, but I'm not Clark Kent. I might have some Superman moments or some Superman ways, it just wasn't happening for me. Once I got back in the groove, I felt unbelievable."

Whatever he is looking to prove, Peterson said it's not to the public. The always-confident Peterson said there are few receivers willing to take him on outside, when Peterson can use his hands to jam them. The list, according to Peterson, is the now-retired Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Odell Beckham.

Beyond that, it's rub routes and body screens and traffic Peterson must traverse, which he said was an indication of the respect other players and offensive coordinators have for his game.

"Ask guys all around this league," Peterson said. "When it comes to (No.) 21 of the Arizona Cardinals, they have to alter their game plan."

When he gets a chance to show it on the field again is up in the air, given COVID-19. Peterson said if he were given a say, he'd cancel for good the offseason – like the players dealt with during the 2011 lockout – and instead try to bring them back a little earlier for an extended training camp.

There have been reports NFL teams might still try to have their minicamp of the offseason. Peterson said he expected to get more information from the league and the NFL Players Association on Friday.

When they do return, though, Peterson plans to make a splash – whether it is contract-related or not. Peterson said he cried when he was told he had made the All-Decade team, because he had always envisioned himself being thought of among the greats in the game. He wants to continue building on that resumé.

"I've got a chip on my shoulder that's bigger than it's ever been," Peterson said. "I can feel something special."