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Patrick Peterson Finds His Focus

No longer playing offense or returning punts, Pro Bowler is all about cornerback


Patrick Peterson will no longer return punts full-time or play offense, concentrating on cornerback.

For Patrick Peterson, football is about focus these days.

The Cardinals and coach Bruce Arians have pared down with what the cornerback must be concerned. No longer will Peterson return punts, now that Ted Ginn and John Brown have arrived. No longer will he play offense, thanks to the speed the Cardinals have added on that side of the ball.

Now he's just a Pro Bowl cornerback, and "I think that's just going to take my game to another level," Peterson said Sunday.

Beyond that, Peterson insists his contract – for which an extension his agent and the Cardinals have been talking about for a few months – is not bothering him either.

"Not at all," Peterson said. "I am here to play football, I have two years left on my deal and I want to do the best I can

to help this team win. I haven't been to the playoffs since I have been here and that's my first goal. That's what I am focusing in on right now."

Ah, focus.

In an offseason that has been filled with debate over who is the best cornerback in the NFL, Peterson now is only thinking cornerback. One of the big stories of Arians' first training camp a year ago was the offensive packages installed for Peterson, who essentially became the team's fourth receiver.

That, Arians said Sunday, was because the roster had an absence of speed at wideout. Since that camp, the Cardinals signed Brittan Golden during the season, grabbed Ted Ginn in free agency this March and drafted John Brown and Walt Powell.

"There was a lack of straight-line speed and we addressed it," Arians said. "We feel comfortable we don't need Pat on offense anymore."

While Arians still said he isn't sure of Peterson's role on punt returns, Peterson said he had been "relieved" of that chore as well.

"My duties are now done," Peterson said. "But I am completely OK with it."

Peterson's punt returns had been nowhere near as productive the last two years as they had been in 2011 when he was a rookie and he tied an NFL record with four returns for touchdowns. Ginn has been an excellent punt returner – he averaged 12.2 yards a return last year for Carolina – and Brown can do that job as well.

So that leaves cornerback.

That's always been what Peterson was about anyway, and certainly in an offseason where it seemed like the weekly NFL conversation eventually circled back to which cornerback was the best in the league. Usually the talk was about Peterson and Seahawks' Pro Bowler Richard Sherman, but when the subject was broached Sunday, Peterson made sure to include the Patriots' Darrelle Revis and the Browns' Joe Haden.

Such debate will go on the rest of their careers, Peterson said. All have the ability to be the best, he said, and he embraces the competition that goes with it.

"Do I feel I am the best cornerback? Absolutely," Peterson said. "That answer is never going to change. But that conversation is always going to come up.

"At the end of the day I don't believe any of those guys are going to say, 'This guy is better than (me).' As a man, I can't fathom putting another guy in front of me."

If Peterson already thinks he's the best, imagine what he can be when all he is concerned about is playing cornerback.

Peterson said that as of now, he's still slated to cover the opposition's top receiver around the field, but it can change with secondary personnel that includes fellow Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie. He doesn't want it to change – asked if he'd be OK handing the No. 1 receiver off to Cromartie, Peterson grinned and said, "No comment" – but he knows it might.

After all, his duties have changed quite a bit for him just since last season. Now, his focus has narrowed.

"It wasn't too much," Peterson said. "It's just a different task being able to now focus on (just) playing cornerback as opposed to trying study all three phases." 

Images from the first practice of 2014 Cardinals training camp

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