Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson never missed a game over his first eight years in the NFL from 2011-2018. He made the Pro Bowl every season and was included on the annually-released NFL Top 100 list each year from 2012 through 2019. It became somewhat of a routine.
But last year, he was suspended for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy and missed the team's first six games. He was not a Pro Bowl selection for the first time and he also wasn't voted as one of the league's 100 best, either.
During a virtual press conference Tuesday, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said that Peterson is on a mission to prove he hasn't lost a step, despite last year's setbacks.
"Talking through things with him and just, he didn't like the way it was going early," Kingsbury said. He wanted to come out and play like Superman like he had his entire career, but it's not possible for any player to sit out six weeks and come back and be the player you are immediately without even really any live game practices or reps or speed.
"And so it took him a little while and by that last month he was playing as good as anybody in the league. And that's what he anticipates to be this season. I know he's on a mission. And I love that. I love that he has a chip on his shoulder."
Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is no stranger to Peterson, having lined up opposite the corner multiple times as a member of the Houston Texans (see clip below). Most recently, the two faced off in November of 2017 in a 31-21 Texans victory. Hopkins had four receptions for 76 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, Peterson had two tackles and an interception.
Hopkins' respect for the three-time All-Pro cornerback has not wavered despite a down year, as Hopkins emphasized Peterson should certainly have been included on a list of the league's best players.
"Pat P is in the top three of cornerbacks that I've played against," Hopkins said on a virtual press conference Monday. "Obviously I think he deserved to be in the Top 100 even after the injuries that he had the year before last, or going into last year. He still played a good season. And I think people that played against him will say the same. He deserves to be in the Top 100. I don't think I had a vote in that, but I definitely put him in there."
Peterson was one of three at his position inducted to the NFL All-Decade Team as one of the best in the league during the 2010s. He has the track record of a probable Hall of Famer and just turned 30-years-old in July.
Kingsbury, meanwhile, is eager to see what Peterson can do in a full season once again, should the schedule be played to capacity amid COVID-19.
"He knows how good he can be and that's his expectation at all times," Kingsbury said. "So, I'm fired up to watch him play this year."