Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is all smiles right now, having managed his diabetes and slimmed down to help his consistency in 2015.
Adrian Wilson doesn't have an official title with the Arizona Cardinals, but that doesn't mean the former Pro Bowl safety doesn't have some work he does for the organization.
One duty he's taken upon himself is helping develop cornerback Patrick Peterson.
It can be seen on the practice field, when Wilson might give a tip on how to jam a receiver at the line of scrimmage. And it certainly comes when the two talk daily, and Wilson, soon to go into the franchise' Ring of Honor, underscores Peterson's opportunity.
"I want him to realize the position he is in," Wilson said. "To just realize he can be the next great DB to
play here. There are guys who have been Hall of Famers here, Roger Wehrli, Larry Wilson, Aeneas (Williams). He can be the next great one."
It's a theme Peterson has heard since he was drafted in 2011. But even with the honors Peterson has drawn, including four Pro Bowls in four seasons at the age of 25, his uneven play in 2014 did not go unnoticed. Especially by Peterson himself.
"I'm just more aware that my time is now," Peterson said. "The clock is ticking, I have no more time to waste."
His bout with diabetes is no longer a secret, a battle with his body that undoubtedly made last season harder. Peterson insists that is not an excuse, and the extra weight he played with last season – while possibly health-related – was something Peterson could not have.
Peterson weighed 219 pounds when he was at the Scouting combine in 2011. He nor anyone will reveal how much he weighed in 2014 – Peterson only said he's lost "a lot" -- but General Manager Steve Keim acknowledged Peterson needed to slim down.
"You think about being a defensive back and how much running you do, all the starting and stopping you
have to do, and putting a 25-pound plate in your pants, it makes a huge difference," Keim said. "Pat is (already) a big, strong guy. To me, you never sacrifice your speed and quickness for weight."
To open camp, Peterson weighed in at a streamlined 203.
"Not only am I coming in with an extra chip on my shoulder because of the way I played last year, it's a lot of reasons," Peterson said. "I just felt the last year, I was disappointed in myself. I still made the Pro Bowl, I just feel like I didn't play to the best of my ability."
His weight and "sluggish movements" made it difficult to make plays, Peterson said. With his Type 2 diabetes managed – Peterson said right now he's "diabetes-free" -- that's been sidelined as a hurdle. Keim said there were also technique issues for Peterson but those are coming around.
Safety and close friend Tyrann Mathieu echoed what many say, that Peterson just wants and needs to play more consistently, although Mathieu added "I don't really like the skinny Patrick."
"Everything he went through last year, getting the big payday, not really playing well, he definitely took this offseason to get healthy, to get in the film room, and it's showing in practice," Mathieu said.
The payday was part of the story last year too. It was a difficult time to struggle after the Cardinals gave him a giant contract extension. Peterson also battled through social channels with the Seahawks' Richard Sherman about who the best cornerback in the league was, a sideshow that intensified the spotlight.
"I always tell him to be quiet, shut his mouth. That's what I always tell him," Wilson said. "It doesn't really matter what anyone else says. At the end of the day it's you going out on the field and you who is going to make the play or you who is not going to make the play.
"There's so much chatter around about who is the best corner in the league and that's irrelevant to me. But for him, he wants to be that guy. The way I see it, the talk is always going to be there, and he just has to shut that kind of stuff off."
Peterson is anxious to play. He and Mathieu – who is also coming off a lesser season after his ACL injury – want to start and push aside the criticism. The moves Peterson has made since the end of 2014 trend toward an improvement.
"We cannot wait to be on the field," Peterson said, "and show the world that we're the real deal."
Images from the Cardinals' Red and White Practice on Saturday