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Patrick Peterson Re-Introduces Himself At Cardinals Practice

Cornerback gets back on the field after six-game suspension

CB Patrick Peterson works in his first practice back in 2019
Cornerback Patrick Peterson jumps during a drill Wednesday in his first practice back after his six-game suspension.

The music started as the Cardinals began practice, the speakers boomed as Jay-Z rapped "allow me to re-introduce myself," and Patrick Peterson extended his arms out and looked to the sky.

With that, Peterson had returned to the field for a team that desperately needs him.

"It was a piece of cake," the cornerback said afterward of his first practice, a nod to his in-suspension training that took place in part at Northern Arizona University and the near-7,000-foot elevation in Flagstaff. "It felt like a walkthrough.

"I don't know if it was because I was so geeked, or the anxiety, but it was like I didn't even practice today. I felt really, really good. Great bounce in my step. I'm just ready to get out there and get some live action, and hopefully be the first one to get an interception for this defense."

Leave it to Peterson to note the opportunity from what has been a negative for the defense thus far, a six-game interception-less string to open the season. But that's also the point of getting Peterson back – adding a major piece to a defense as they get ready to play the Giants Sunday.

"He should be fresh and ready to go," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. "That's obviously not a good thing for us."

The expectation is for Peterson to start on one side, with rookie Byron Murphy – who is ahead on his learning curve after the Cards had to force-feed him playing time with Peterson and Robert Alford (broken leg) out – on the other side and veteran Tramaine Brock getting even more work in his more comfortable role in the slot.

Peterson also immediately can help in the meeting room.

"Whether it's on the field or off the field, in the film room, (Peterson) is talking and he's giving the young guys all types of little things that can help their game," safety Budda Baker said. "He drops right back in. We had a great practice today. He didn't mess anything up, he's on his stuff."

Peterson said the six weeks he was absent "flew by" as he tried to structure each week like a regular football week. Meetings were obviously out and he was unable to study the playbook because of suspension rules, but he did go through on-field practice work the best he could and then simulated "games" on Sundays. That happened in Flagstaff, where Peterson spent his first two training camps with the Cardinals.

To do so, he'd place cones on the field to represent a quarterback and then run routes as a defender – guard a dig, guard a post, guard a go. He'd work on all four corners of the field, and broke the work into four quarters – work 18 plays and take a break, then 15 or so, and break. The idea was to make it seem like a game, until he ran about 55 to 65 "defensive plays" like he would in a game.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury said the expectation is that Peterson will be ready to play full-time right away.

"He's going to bring some good juice to the practice field this week," Kingsbury said.

Peterson reiterated his frustration watching games at home, particularly in the first three games of the season when he felt there were too many "bonehead mistakes" in coverage, in part because players were still learning how to apply defensive coordinator Vance Joseph's system.

Those issues were already improving recently, Peterson said.

"(QB) Kyler (Murray) understands how to win football games," Peterson said. "Now as a defense, we have to take the next step and finish football games. Because '1' can do it. Now it's on us to hold up our end of the responsibility."

The Cardinals have gotten a roster exemption for Peterson this week, coming off suspension, although they will have to make a move – releasing a player and adding Peterson to the 53-man list – prior to Sunday's game in New York.

With the trade deadline approaching, Peterson's name has been raised nationally, but GM Steve Keim has said repeatedly the Cardinals have no interest in dealing away their top cover corner. Peterson said he knew nothing of the rumors.

"I'm here," he said. "I have a contract with the Cardinals for these 10 games and next season. Whatever happens after that is pretty much out of my control. I'm here preparing for the Giants and the other nine games on the schedule.

"I'm just happy to be back to help my guys get better and I'm focusing on that right now. I'm planning on this being the best 10 games I've played in my career."

Even if Peterson does play at his best level, he is ineligible to reach the Pro Bowl for the ninth time in his nine NFL seasons. League rules prohibit a Pro Bowl bid for any player who is suspended that season.

The smile Peterson wore Wednesday showed the joy he had in returning, but there is also little question he has felt the ramifications of violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy, both with his missed time and dinged reputation.

"I really hope that did not tarnish what I stand for, what I've done up until this point in my career," Peterson said. "I have no reason to cheat. I work my tail off each and every offseason to be in this position. It is an unfortunate situation that I wish I could have back, but I'm moving forward."

On the field, that means preparing for a game. Off the field, he does have a little more work to do off the field thanks to Wednesday's opening song. The cornerback was originally going to use that particular Jay-Z music – "Public Service Announcement" -- for a social media highlight video he was going to release on Friday.

"Now I have to go back into the lab and change my song," Peterson said with a smile. "But that was a great introduction."

Images from practice at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center.