Cornerback Patrick Peterson has looked good running offensive plays thus far in training camp.
In one of the first conversations Patrick Peterson had with his new head coach back in January, Bruce Arians let his Pro Bowl cornerback know he had plans to utilize him on offense.
Peterson smiled when recalling that Saturday in the locker room. "I didn't know he was going to take it this far," Peterson said.
Training camp is a time to fully explore the playbook for the coming season, but no one – not really even Arians himself – planned on having Peterson don the white offensive tank top over his red defensive jersey as much as he has over the first week of camp.
What became obvious to Arians was that Peterson can help his offense. The offensive package for Peterson has already grown to about 15 plays, Arians said, and there's a chance it could get bigger.
"I had hopes he could be something special in a package a week," Arians said. "But after you see the athlete he is, it's like, you
think he could probably one of the top five receivers in the league. You think, 'Hmm, that's a lot of weapon sitting next to me.' "
Said quarterback Carson Palmer, "If he wasn't playing corner he'd probably be just as good of a receiver, H-back or Percy Harvin-type player."
Peterson offers a chuckle when told of Arians' top-five comment. Peterson's goal isn't to reach any kind of offensive stardom. He'd like to aid the Cardinals where he can, though, and watching him in his handful of practice reps, his potential impact is obvious.
"I'm definitely honored," Peterson said. "I'm pretty dynamic with the ball in my hands. I'm not saying the offense needs help over there but I guess (Coach) just wants more explosive plays from guys who can help."
It's not as if Peterson has never played offense. Former coach Ken Whisenhunt used Peterson in a wildcat formation – the "PatCat" – but it was essentially only a running play after taking the ball from the shotgun.
Arians long ago said he wasn't a fan of the wildcat. But already in camp, Peterson, lining up as a receiver, has been featured in a multitude of ways. He's taken a pitch for an end run. He's been part of a reverse. He's been a decoy handoff. He's run go routes down the sideline. He's even worked the run-pass option, at one point connecting on a throw to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Arians emphasized the play list will never be lengthy for any particular game, but there is "no doubt" Peterson will be used on that side of the ball.
"It's something (defenses) have to prepare for, something you have to worry about," Palmer said. "Whether he touches the ball every time he's on the field or doesn't touch it at all, he's a threat."
Peterson isn't going to forget his main job. "My primary position is cornerback," he said, and he knows covering the opponent's top receiver remains his most valuable contribution. He doesn't think twice about getting tired as a triple-threat cog (he remains the team's top punt returner too), insisting he is the best conditioned player on the team.
Arians chuckled when asked about Peterson getting tired, noting that Peterson, from the South, is used to the heat. He joked that Peterson practices in long sleeves and long pants, even outside, so he's prepped his body.
"He can run all day," Arians said.
In games, Peterson said he will have no problem being honest with Arians to ask for a breather. No one seems to be concerned with any extra exposure to injury.
Improving on defense isn't a problem either, Peterson said. Playing man-to-man most of the time, he doesn't have a ton of things to work on beyond technique. He welcomes more chances to work on the offensive side of the ball, given that he's going to be playing there anyway.
"On offense I want to get the chemistry down pat, the terminology down pat so when I go out there I'm not like a chicken with my head cut off," he said.
Already, Peterson wanted to wipe his 2012 punt return season away and get back to the way he was able to return kicks in 2011. He desperately wants to be thought of as a shutdown cornerback, and is working in that regard as well.
The idea he could make an interception in a game while also breaking a punt return and making a huge play on offense is inviting. That's what was percolating in Arians' brain when he first considered Peterson's potential roles and now, it's what Peterson thinks about too.
"To have those thoughts running through my mind," Peterson said, "is unbelievable."