While Week 10 of the 2020 season was a celebratory affair for the Arizona Cardinals following a victory over the Buffalo Bills that came in Hail Mary fashion — a play fondly deemed the Hail Murray for the game-winning connection between franchise quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins — it did not come without pitfalls.
The Hail Murray was deemed the NFL's Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year at the league's award show following the conclusion of the season and improved the Cardinals record to 6-3 at the time. Yet, those accolades were slightly undercut by the loss of nose tackle Corey Peters for the season due to a torn patellar tendon suffered with 52 seconds remaining in the first half.
"I'm doing well," Peters exclusively told AllCardinals recently. "Right now just focusing all my time and energy on just rehabbing my knee. It's been, I guess, about four months since we've had surgery. It's going well. It's a slow process, a long process, but it's not my first time going through a rehab process.
"I understand it's just going to be up and down, up and down and then we'll get there though. But everything's going well, I'm ahead of schedule and I'm looking forward to getting back out there and being able to play next year."
Peters was injured while tackling Bills quarterback Josh Allen. It did not appear to be a contact-related injury based on the game broadcast replay review, but Peters needed assistance to the cart and was transported off the field. Several players gathered around Peters while he was on the ground and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was observed holding his hand.
Peters waved to the stands as he was carted into the locker room and had previously suffered two Achilles injuries earlier in his career.
"It was really frustrating, just more so because obviously we had playoff hopes and Super Bowl hopes and I felt like things were going well," Peters said. "And just not being able to play anymore and participate, I think that's the worst part of it. But it is what it is. Your body is the only body you have and if this happens, you just gotta lock in on the rehab and try to get back on it and try to stay positive about everything."
The nine games Peters played last season were the fewest in his entire 10-year career; minus the 2015 season in which he missed completely. The next fewest came in 2012 when he participated in 10 games for the Atlanta Falcons.
Given that 2020 was a contract year for Peters, much was riding on how successful he could be as a 32-year-old (33 on June 8) nose tackle. In nine games for the Cardinals, he accumulated 15 tackles, four quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, two sacks and one pass defensed. Outside of his impact on the gridiron, Peters' presence in the locker room as a team captain and mentor for other defenders in his position group and beyond has been paramount across his five-year tenure serving the Red Sea.
So where do the two parties stand on a potential contract agreement?
“We’re always looking to add talent; we know what Corey’s about," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the team's OTA this week. "He was tremendous for us on and off the field, one of the great leaders in our locker room, so we’ll see how that plays out.
"And we're excited about some of the young talent we have there as well. I thought Rashard (Lawrence) did a nice job last year stepping in. Leki (Fotu) really came a long way. And so we feel like we have some good pieces."
Added Peters: "We've talked, but my options are open. I'm looking forward to whatever opportunity presents itself . . . I put roots down here, my home is here, so I would love to stay. And then also my community work; I really have a special connection to the south Phoenix community. I'd love to be here, but I understand the business part of it and it is what it is. And at the end of the day, we will do what's best for us. Just as I expect the teams to do what's best for them."
Whether or not Peters suits up for the Cardinals next season, his main priority is rehabbing and being as effective and dominant at the line of scrimmage as he feels he can be. In terms of when a contract could be signed, Peters is primarily focused on his recovery timeline and feels the rest will work itself out.
"I think obviously, most teams are going to want to wait until I can show them that I'm closer to being ready to play," Peters said. "And that's fair, so right now I'm just focused on getting to that point. And I'm confident that things are going well so far. I don't see any reason why I wouldn't be there."