TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) These are good days for Patrick Peterson.
He's a new father. He was just named recipient of the Arizona Cardinals' Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his charitable activities.
And, his coach Bruce Arians said, ''He's playing probably as well as Deion Sanders did when he was young.''
''Pat, he's unbelievable,'' Arians said after Friday's practice. ''To see him progress so much from last year to this year is amazing. He's playing at a level right now I haven't seen very often.''
With some big statistics, Peterson's ex-LSU and current Cardinals teammate, do-everything safety Tyrann Mathieu, won NFC defensive player of the month honors for November.
By comparison, Peterson's season statistics aren't that impressive - 25 tackles, eight passes defensed, two interceptions - but that's largely because opposing coaches usually have chosen not to throw the ball in his direction.
Each week, Peterson is assigned the opposing team's best receiver.
In last week's 19-13 win at San Francisco, Blaine Gabbert threw to Torrey Smith just twice when Peterson was covering him, both for incompletions. Smith's two catches for 51 yards came with someone else on him.
According to Pro Football Focus, Peterson has been in coverage 422 times this season and allowed 19 catches. The rate of one catch every 22.2 plays is easily the best in the NFL. He's allowed one touchdown, PFF said, on a blown coverage at Chicago.
''I believe if I continue keeping guys out of the end zone, keeping those guys off the stat sheet, we'll have a good chance of winning,'' Peterson said. ''I think I'm doing a pretty good job this year.''
But being compared to Sanders?
''That's a huge compliment, but in my opinion I still have a long way to go,'' he said.
Peterson is coming off what he acknowledged was a sub-par 2014 season, even though he made the Pro Bowl, becoming the fourth player in NFL history to be so honored in each of his first four season. He's in pretty good company. The other three to do it are Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith.
Peterson had a reason for being less than his normal self. He was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes during last season and had a hard time keeping his weight down.
''I was fat,'' he said. ''I couldn't make any plays. I was one or two steps behind making a play.''
This year, he is noticeably slimmed down and said there is ''no question'' he is playing the best of his career.
''As far as mentally, as far as preparation, as far as my patience at the line of scrimmage,'' he said, ''everything I've been working on this offseason is definitely coming all together.''
Peterson's also emerged as one of the team's leaders. He and lineman Calais Campbell were voted team captains for the defense. And when Arians declared after the San Francisco game that it would be ''Victory Monday'' and the players would have the day off, Peterson called his defensive teammates to a one-hour meeting anyway.
''It was just all about fixing the little things,'' Peterson said, ''just making sure as players that we understand what teams are going to do at all times because we knew those plays were going to come and we let it go. Our eyes weren't in the right place. We have to make sure that we're always technically sound and always paying attention to little things because that is what can beat us.''
He said in the offseason he spoke with the likes of Sanders and Michael Jordan about leadership.
''What those guys are telling me is if I'm playing at a high level and I speak, my words carry a little bit more,'' he said. ''Although I am more vocal, I want my play to do the talking.''
The Cardinals, 9-2 and winners of five straight, play at St. Louis on Sunday.
Notes: Arians said Andre Ellington (turf toe), cornerback Jerraud Powers (calf) and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (ankle) are out for Sunday's game against St. Louis. Arians said defensive end Cory Redding, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, is ''getting better'' and is questionable for the Rams contest. ... Ellington, Arians said, was in Los Angeles on Friday to see a specialist about his injured foot. ... Arians said he expects rookie David Johnson, the starting running back with Chris Johnson and Ellington injured, to get about 25 touches on Sunday.
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