GLENDALE, Ariz. — Patrick Peterson is catching passes, throwing some and running with the ball during training camp.
No doubt about it, new Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has plans for the dynamic player on offense.
In his first two NFL seasons, Peterson made the Pro Bowl as a punt returner, then as a cornerback. He remains a shutdown cornerback, first and foremost. And he still plans to return punts.
But Arians says Peterson is too talented to be standing on the sideline all the time when the Cardinals have the ball.
Peterson is all for it.
“I’m pretty dynamic with the ball in my hands,” he said. “I’m not saying the offense needs help. They have great talent over there. But I guess (Arians) just wanted more explosive plays from guys that could help.”
Peterson is supremely confident, to say the least.
“I’m definitely an athlete that can pretty much play every skill position on the field,” he said.
It’s no idle boast.
“There’s not much he can’t do,” quarterback Carson Palmer agreed.
Arians approached Peterson early about playing some on offense.
“He kind of put a bug in my ear when he did get hired,” Peterson said. “I didn’t know he was going to take it this far. He has a pretty big package for me. But as a defensive player, I’m definitely honored to even be in consideration for taking some offensive snaps.”
Peterson had a few snaps last season in the wildcat formation under then-coach Ken Whisenhunt. When Whisenhunt was fired and Arians came in, the new coach had an idea that he’d like some kind of package with Peterson on offense.
That idea has only grown as Arians watched Peterson up close.
“I had hopes that he could be something special in a package a week,” Arians said. “But after you see the athlete he is, he probably could be one of the top five receivers in the league. So you say, ‘Hmm, that’s a lot of weapon sitting over here next to me.’”
Arians, speaking Saturday before the team’s annual “Red-White” practice, said he’s installed about 15 plays with Peterson on offense, although there wouldn’t be that many in any single game plan.
“But there’s no doubt we’re going to utilize his skill set on offense,” the coach said.
Arians doesn’t use the wildcat. Instead, he has Peterson either at wide receiver or in the backfield. On several occasions, he’s caught a pass over the middle.
“Now I get a chance to see what the receiver’s point of view is in trying to attack defensive backs, and having that head start on defensive backs,” Peterson said.
He has been a starting cornerback from the time the Cardinals selected him as the No. 5 pick overall out of LSU in 2011.
As a rookie, he tied an NFL record, becoming the fourth player in league history to return four punts for touchdowns in a single season. Of the four, Peterson is the only one to have all four returns go at least 80 yards. One was a 99-yard game-winner against St. Louis.
Last season, he didn’t get a single punt return to the end zone, but he did excel at cornerback, ranking fourth in the league with seven interceptions. Peterson became the ninth player in NFL history to make two Pro Bowls before his 23rd birthday.
It is, Palmer said earlier in camp, too much talent to waste on one side of the ball.
“If he wasn’t playing corner, he’d probably be just as good a receiver or an H-back,” Palmer said, “a Percy Harvin-type player, because you’ve seen what he can do as a punt returner, obviously.”
Palmer said he loves having Peterson in on offense.
“Obviously he can be very effective with the ball in his hands, but he’s also effective on the field as a decoy,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty big package in for a guy that’s a defensive football player. That’s something you have to prepare for, something you have to think about and worry about. Whether he touches the ball every time he’s on the field or he doesn’t touch it at all, he’s a threat and he’s something the defense has to prepare for and account for.”
Javier Arenas or Peterson’s former LSU teammate, Tyrann Mathieu, could spell Peterson as punt returner.
But, Arians said, “I don’t really want to take too many touches away from him.”
Arians said that if the defense has just endured a long drive, Peterson probably won’t be in the game the next time Arizona has the ball. But Peterson said he put himself through tough offseason workouts to be prepared for just that.
“I practiced in pretty much weather like this back in south Florida, pretty humid, things like that,” he said. “So my body can definitely take the wear and tear. I’m definitely prepared for whatever the coach needs me to do.
“I feel that I’m the best conditioned guy on the team, so running is not an issue for me.”
With or without the ball.
Notes: RB Rashard Mendenhall missed his second straight day of practice with knee tendinitis but is expected back Monday, Arians said. … RB Ryan Williams had another treatment on his ailing knee and Arians hope the injury-plagued back can return to practice after the Aug. 9 preseason opener at Green Bay, if not sooner. … DT Darnell Dockett missed Friday and Saturday practices for personal reasons. … The players have Sunday off.