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Punt Return Possibility For Patrick Peterson

Notes: Former Pro Bowl return man could get work; Starters at safety not important


Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson returns a punt Tuesday during the team's minicamp practice.

Patrick Peterson's eyes grew wide and disappointment spread across his face following Tuesday's minicamp practice.

A couple of hours earlier, the Cardinals cornerback wowed coach Bruce Arians with a dynamic punt return. Afterward in the locker room, Peterson thought the chance to do so in a game this year was already getting shut down.

"He said he completely dismissed it?" Peterson asked a reporter who relayed Arians' thoughts.

No, he has not dismissed it.

"Oh, man," Peterson said. "My heart was racing."

The Cardinals drafted Alabama-Birmingham speedster J.J. Nelson in the fifth round of the draft in large part due to his return game experience, and he seems like the favorite to perform those duties in the regular season. There is a stable of other youngsters in the mix, but Peterson, now the veteran of the group, is not giving up the dream.

After relinquishing punt return duties to veteran Ted Ginn last season, Peterson continues to lobby for at least a part-time role in 2015, "dying" for an opportunity to record his fifth career punt return touchdown after accumulating four as a rookie in 2011.

Even though Peterson is the team's star cornerback, he thinks there's a realistic shot he returns some punts this season.

"Honestly, I do think there's a decent chance," Peterson said. "Now that we have nothing but young guys, I'll be the vet who understands these types of situations – how to handle those sky punts, how to handle those backed-up punts. I think there's a very, very high percentage chance that I'll get at least a couple this year."

Arians said seeing Peterson back on punt returns this year "is always a possibility." He may come around on the idea more if Peterson continues the display he put on Tuesday.

"I saw Patrick grab a punt and just out-flank everyone really quick," Arians said. "I had to check to see who was on that punt team really quick, make sure it wasn't any starters. He looks fantastic. He's in great shape."


Safeties Rashad Johnson and Deone Bucannon have lined up with the first unit in the base defense this offseason, but Arians doesn't consider them the starters over Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson.

One of the strengths of the unit is its versatility, with Bucannon proving last year he can play linebacker and Mathieu able to seamlessly move to nickel cornerback.  The quartet will be rotated depending on the formations presented by opposing offenses.

"We've got so many interchangeable parts and so many different packages, there's really nobody ahead of anybody," Arians said. "It depends what (the offense) puts on the field who is out there for us. Our best 11, however they match up."

Peterson's presence as an outside cornerback may be the only position that doesn't change frequently in the secondary in 2015.

"That's a credit to (former defensive coordinator Todd) Bowles, the way he built this defense," Peterson said. "The identity of this defense was to have awesome cover guys. With coach Bowles being a secondary guy, we were basically his bread and butter. That's why he blitzed so much. That's why he put us in zero coverage all the time. Having these guys that are interchangeable -- like Jerraud (Powers), like Tyrann, like Bucannon, like Rashad -- having so many guys that can play so many positions helps us out in the long run."


It's become clear from Arians' comments that Logan Thomas will not be handed the third quarterback job despite being a fourth-round pick last season.

The Cardinals knew he was a project coming out of Virginia Tech, but Arians said he was hoping to see more development by now from Thomas in his year-plus with the club.

"It's still a work in progress," Arians said. "He makes some of those wild throws still. You scratch your head sometimes."

Thomas is being pushed by undrafted rookie free agent Phillip Sims for the third quarterback spot, with Chandler Harnish also in the mix.

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