Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters makes a stop of 49ers running back Carlos Hyde Sunday.
What Corey Peters cares about is plugging up the middle of the defensive line, keeping blockers off his linebackers and the wins those things can hopefully help generate.
Being credited for such things? Meh.
"I don't really care about anything else," Peters said. "I don't care to be noticed publicly and I would actually just prefer to just kind of be (in the background)."
That works out well for a guy who plays in the middle of the defensive line, all but hidden by bodies play after play. In many ways, Peters has been in the background since the time he showed up to
the Cardinals, even as he has emerged for the last season-plus as perhaps their most underrated defensive piece.
When Peters signed as a free agent, it was linebacker Sean Weatherspoon who was the splashier name, even though Peters got a three-year deal and Weatherspoon just one. When the Cardinals had their memorable 2015 run to the NFC Championship game, Peters could only watch, his season over with a ruptured Achilles in training camp – the second time that had happened in his career.
Peters came back to play well a season ago for a highly-ranked defense, but it was lost in the disappointing year the Cards had overall. This year, he's ranked 16th among all interior defensive linemen by Pro Football Focus.
"He's not just a nose tackle," coach Bruce Arians said. "He can penetrate and guys are getting sacks in the pocket because he's usually creating havoc having two guys block him."
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher called Peters savvy, noting all his dirty work inside and "non-statistic plays." The Cardinals have seen less inside runs from the opposition, and "maybe that's a testament to him," Bettcher said.
What's also a testament to Peters is the way he has twice salvaged his career after the Achilles injuries.
The first came when he played for the Falcons, and while he rehabbed he admitted he didn't take
care of himself. Stuck in depression and feeling sorry for himself, Peters gained a lot of weight and made his return more difficult than it should have been.
When he did it again with the Cardinals, he was ready. The rehab was arduous, but Peters avoided the same depression, understanding that being healed did not necessarily mean being healthy enough to be the same player at first. The patience helped.
"That first one taught me not only how to handle it but also a lot about life, taking responsibility for yourself and your life," Peters said. "It's not really about what happens to you it's what you do after that."
That was play good football – which Peters did all last season – and also provide leadership.
"I can relate to him," defensive lineman and locker neighbor Olsen Pierre said. "He's the type of guy I am, quiet, doing the things he'd got to do, do what the coaches tell him to do. We talk a lot. He's mentored me the last two years.
"He's a leader, especially for us younger guys. Telling us secrets about the game, little things we don't see on film."
Peters, 29, will be one of many key free agents after the season. His future could hinge on the direction the franchise goes and also what kind of market would develop in free agency. Whatever happens, Peters won't make a big deal about it. That's just who he is.
"At the end of the day, all I care about is winning and trying to do a good job across the board," Peters said.
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders at the Week 4 game against the 49ers