Patrick Peterson insists it's just another game.
The former Cardinals star-turned-Vikings-cornerback, who will visit State Farm Stadium Sunday as an opponent after 10 years with the Cards, said it on his "All Things Covered" podcast, and then reiterated it during his weekly press conference Thursday with Minnesota reporters.
But that can't be right, can it? Just another game? At a place where Peterson's whole career was built, where he was All-Pro twice, where he made the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons? Where, in the end even after some bumpy times (including a one-time trade request) he wanted to stay before finally leaving as a free agent this offseason?
"In actuality it is another game," Peterson insisted. "I have to go out there and be at my best for my team, I have to go out there and be dialed in for 60 minutes, not allow any big plays, not allowing catches. Doing whatever I need to do to make sure my guy doesn't show up on the stat sheet.
"That's my main focus, that's my main goal going into this week and I'm working towards that all week."
The separation was, in the end, not an easy one for Peterson. He talked about moving on immediately after signing with the Vikings, but used his podcast to criticize the way Cardinals GM Steve Keim handled the situation.
Asked Thursday if he felt respected by the Cardinals, Peterson said "I said what I said a couple months back" and reiterated how he was focusing on the game.
At one time it seemed unlikely Peterson would leave Arizona. But in a difficult 2018 season under one-year coach Steve Wilks and playing in a system that did not fit his game, Peterson asked for a trade midseason. He ended up professing his desire to stay in Arizona right after coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired, only to be suspended for the first six games of 2019 a few months later. He struggled upon his return.
As he played out the final year of his contract in 2020, it become more likely he would be moving on.
"Pat was a great player here for a long time and his teammates loved him," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "We'll see. Hopefully for both sides, it's (just) the next game."
Peterson has been paying attention to Arizona, at least a little. When cornerback Malcolm Butler – who had been given Peterson's No. 21 – abruptly retired, Peterson posted on his Instagram account "I guess it wasn't meant to be wored," (sic) complete with a shrugging emoji.
He's also well aware of former teammate DeAndre Hopkins, and whether Peterson lines up across from Hopkins all the time – which he would have done in the past in Arizona – is one of the storylines of Sunday.
According to Pro Football Focus, when Peterson has been covering Hopkins all-time, Hopkins has been targeted 18 times, with nine catches, 125 yards and three touchdowns.
Kingsbury said he isn't going to get emotional in the offensive scheming for Peterson.
"I see (players) as Xs and Os, that's always been my philosophy," Kingsbury said. "There are certain players, Pat P being one of them, where you've got to always know where they're at and who they're guarding. But I try to attack a defense schematically as best I can and get our best matchups out there."
For Kingsbury, then, yes, it's another week. Maybe Peterson will be able to get there too.
But Peterson admitted he isn't sure what kind of fan reception he'll get. It's hard to believe when he goes on the field – a field he has played on dozens of times as a home player – in the visiting uniform, he won't feel some kind of way.
"As far as my welcome back, I really don't know," Peterson said. "It may be easier said than done, but I'm really treating this like another game on the schedule. I'm not expecting anything, but if it comes, I would definitely welcome it."