Patrick Peterson makes statement on suspension Patrick Breen, Arizona Republic
Patrick Peterson did the right thing Thursday night by apologizing for the news bomb that exploded earlier in the day that he will be suspended for six games to start the 2019 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Although he could have been a little more contrite, he handled it about as well as possible considering the embarrassment of having to do it while attending his own charity fundraiser moments before the start of a glitzy reception and silent auction in Scottsdale.
The question now is, can the Cardinals count on their All-Pro cornerback to do the right thing moving forward or is it worth exploring a potential trade for the 29-year-old, eight-time Pro Bowler?
There is no denying this has now evolved into a complex and very tricky situation for both Peterson and the Cardinals.
Given his recent tantrums, which included a demand for a trade back in October and virtually bleaching away any connection he has to the team on his social media accounts, it’s fair to wonder just how committed he remains to the organization that drafted him with the fifth overall pick in 2011.
From the Cardinals’ side of things, imagine how difficult it would be to part with your best player on defense, knowing full well you will never get fair or equal value for one of the league’s premier shut-down corners. Especially now that he’s going to miss the first six games of the season.
Players like Peterson just don’t fall into your lap. The Cardinals can try to replace him, at least for the first month and a half of the regular season, by relying on some combination of rookie Byron Murphy and veteran free-agent additions Robert Alford and Tramaine Brock Sr. But could Peterson’s recent shenanigans be enough for the Cardinals to actually consider moving on from him altogether?
Before it gets to that point, if it hasn’t already, we need to explore whether or not the relationship can be salvaged.
It was telling, perhaps, that head coach Kliff Kingsbury attended Peterson’s fundraiser Thursday night and spent nearly 30 minutes with him in front of sponsors, donors and celebrities. That’s a good sign and it will be important to remember. To his credit, Peterson also professed during his brief appearance in front of reporters that “the relationship is great” between he and the Cardinals.
“I think you guys understand my character and also understand my commitment on and off the field and also to my teammates and the Arizona Cardinals’ organization,” Peterson told us.
While it’s fair to question that last part, Peterson’s love for his teammates is real. No one takes better care of the locker room than him. He’s always been the first to invite teammates to parties and fun events, he’s always giving away swag that comes his way and he buys them pricey gifts every year. With the exception of wanting to bail on them seven months ago, he’s also always been a leader to them on and off the field.
Until he asked for that trade, Peterson had never been a disturbance or a distraction. He was and remained a class act who represented the organization with pride and served his community exceedingly well. His reputation has certainly been damaged, however, and it’s up to him to repair it. To that end, he didn’t do a very good job in his response to being asked if he planned to attend the start of voluntary organized team activities on Monday.
Instead of saying he would or wouldn’t and explaining why, he told reporters he’s a busy man who must look after his daughter and make sure his wife gets to and from medical classes. That’s sweet and it’s his prerogative not to attend voluntary workouts, but it’s not the answer you’re looking for from one of the leaders and captains of your team. That’s troubling.
On the positive end, team President Michael Bidwill and General Manager Steve Keim have each said they want Peterson to retire as a member of the Cardinals. Keim said it just a few weeks ago when it was already known to him that Peterson was facing a suspension for taking PEDs and then trying to mask it, which is what lengthened a four-game ban to six.
“I would love to see Patrick retire a Cardinal,” Keim said during a post-draft appearance with “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7-FM. “… I want him to remain a Cardinal. There’s only a few guys who possess his skills to be a natural cover corner and to me, you can’t have enough good ones out there.”
Things might be fractured, but it doesn’t mean this has to be the end of the road for Peterson and the Cardinals. There’s still plenty of time for them to kiss and make up. The matter of his alleged unhappiness with someone in the front office remains puzzling, as does whether or not it had to do with Peterson apparently being rebuffed about a possible contract restructure to save him a huge chunk of money he will lose during his suspension.
That hasn’t been confirmed by either party and it probably never will. Peterson did reveal Thursday night that he has talked privately with Keim and he implied that it was a good conversation. That’s helpful moving forward.
As important as the court of public opinion is to the fanbase, which overwhelming seems to be holding Peterson in full contempt, it’s more critical to remember the Cardinals hold all the cards as to what happens next. Peterson is under contract for two more years and they don’t have to acquiesce to his demands, should he want out or even ask for a new deal for more money and more years.
Technically, he doesn’t have to report to the team until June 11, which is the start of mandatory minicamp for the entire roster. Like any player, he will be subject to daily fines if he doesn’t appear. Peterson, though, intimated he will be there, promising to do “my due diligence to make sure that I’m in shape.”
He also said he is looking forward to getting back for the Cardinals’ Week 7 game at the New York Giants and vowing: “I’m going to continue to try to keep that smile on my face and get back to being the best DB in the league.”
In the meantime, the Cardinals — should they choose to do so — can trade him to the highest bidder, although suddenly their leverage is a lot like it was when they tried to peddle off Josh Rosen during the draft.
It’s taken a huge hit. If it wasn’t for the suspension, nothing short of a first-round draft pick would be appropriate return for arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. If Peterson hadn’t tested positive for a banned substance, the Cardinals probably would be asking for even more than that if they are or were contemplating a possible trade.
The best thing that could happen now would be for Peterson to show some good faith and report to at least some of the voluntary workouts and then prove his greatness in training camp and the preseason. The suspension will come and go and like many star NFL players before him, his status as one of the best to ever play the game ultimately will be restored, albeit with an asterisk attached.
Peterson can’t change that, but he can help change what happens next if he and the Cardinals are on the same page.
Have an opinion on the Arizona Cardinals? Reach McManaman at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac. Listen to him live every Tuesday afternoon between 2-5:30 on AM 1060/SB Nation Radio on Calling All Sports with Roc and Manuch and every Wednesday afternoon between 1-4 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.
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Photos: Patrick Peterson through the years
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