Legacy

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Patrick Peterson
·17 min read
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So this is actually goodbye.

You want to know something random that’s been on my mind a lot lately?

Arizona sunsets.

AZ has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world, man. When that orange and that purple kind of blend together as the sun drops behind the mountains, it’s like a painting.

That’s something I’m going to really miss about the desert.

I almost feel like I need to hit pause for a second before I even start writing this, to look around and just take it all in. To take a deep breath.

Wow. It’s really been a wild ride.

Am I surprised to be leaving? A little bit, I’m not gonna lie. But I wasn’t taken aback by it, if that makes sense. I’ve been with this team for 10 years, so I’ve seen different versions of my situation play out with other high profile players many times. If you’re at the end of your contract and haven’t gotten another one before the season’s over, nine times out of 10 you’re going to walk. Nothing against anyone — that’s just the way this business works.

So I’d already had it in the back of my mind that I was going to be pulling on a different jersey come September. I had already been mentally preparing.

Then I found out where I was going, and it became real.

And to tell you the truth, I feel great about what the future holds for me as a Minnesota Viking. But as I’ve been going through the process of leaving I’ve also been trying to figure out the best way possible to say goodbye to the only fan base I’ve ever known.

Ten years ago, when I found out I was going to be a Cardinal, I didn’t even recognize the 602 area code. I barely knew anything about Arizona. I moved out here, got married to my wife, Antonique, and brought two beautiful daughters into the world, which is a blessing. Paityn is five now, and Parker is almost two. Every day I’m looking at Antonique like, Wow, we really have a five-year-old. That’s crazy. It’s funny how time works.

So, what do you say to a city that’s not just a city — but truly your home? Nothing seems good enough.

But I’ll just start with this:

Thank you.

When I think about the beginning, you want to know what I really think about?

My OG’s.

Rashad Johnson and Larry, who’s been there forever. Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Joey Porter, Richard Marshall. All of those guys were way older than me and had more years in the league under their belt. They took me under their wing and showed me the ropes of how to be a pro — how to study, how to practice, how to come to work, how to handle your business.

My journey starts there with those guys, especially Darnell and Joey — on my ass.

I was on the same side of the ball as them, so those guys were always on me. Just cracking jokes and giving me a hard time. That’s how they showed love. But they really looked out for me.

Whatever the hottest J’s were, Darnell always made sure they were waiting for me in my locker. He got me some Oregon 3s, 4s and 5s. Those were some of the hot ones back then. (And they’re still hot. Google them right now and see how much they’re going for on the aftermarket if you don’t believe me.) Copped some Concord 12s. Whatever it was, he always had a pair for me. He was seriously big bro.

Norm Hall/Getty Images
Norm Hall/Getty Images

I remember my rookie year I got Special Teams Player of the Week like twice in one month — and then I had capped it off with Special Teams Player of the Month. The next day, Darnell walked into the meeting room, and he saw me chillin’ over in the corner.

He said, “Maaaan, he think his shit don’t stink, now! Somebody better sit his young ass down!!”

Everybody lost it. We were cracking up. But that was just him. That’s how Darnell was.

Looking back, I wouldn’t be the player I am today if it weren’t for guys like that having my back from the beginning.

When I first stepped into the Cardinals’ practice facility, there were two things I picked up on about the organization. One: It was very old school. The locker room, the weight room, the whole thing. It was a very old-school type of environment. I just knew off the bat, O.K., they’re not messing around here. We’re here to work. And the second thing: Pat Tillman doesn’t just mean a lot to this organization — he is the organization. The respect they pay him in that building is just amazing. When I first walked into the locker room ... maybe it was just seeing his picture everywhere, I really don’t know, but I felt his presence in there. I still get chills thinking about it.

Now, a decade later, Pat Tillman’s still in the building, but the facility looks completely different. All our equipment, the cafeteria, the training area and weight room, it’s all state of the art. I mean, Michael Bidwill even put cryo chambers in the locker room. You can tell that he’s been focused on putting all his resources into the players to go try and get this thing where it needs to be.

It’s unbelievable to think of how much of Cardinals history I’ve been a part of.

There’s this random memory that sticks out to me from early on in my career.

It was my third year, and Bruce Arians had just taken over the coaching job. And he was tough on me. He never let me off easy. It seemed like he was trying to groom me for more of a leadership role. I became a captain in his first year there. I felt like he trusted me, and he knew that I had the work ethic and the desire to be one of those guys — to be a five-star athlete as he would call it.

Bruce would always call out the DBs in the team meetings. I’ll never forget one time after we had this terrible practice. Man ... It felt like they were torturing us out there. The next day, Bruce comes into the meeting room just blasting us, saying we were this, that and the other.

I pull aside our special teams coach like, “Man, why B.A. always go so hard on us?”

He said, “He knows y’all are going to respond. Y’all are going to go out with that ‘prove it’ mentality.”

Basically, Bruce knew his D-backs could take the heat and influence the rest of the team.

I thought about it like, Well, I guess that’s pretty cool.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

To see the way he moved, how he coached his players, and loved on his players, no matter who it was, just really motivated me.

Under Coach Bruce, I became a part of the bigger picture.

I was really a Cardinal.

During the 2014 season, I faced one of the scariest situations of my life. (No, not the suspension. We’ll get to that later.) It was a health scare. I was extremely overweight, and I couldn’t figure out why.

I remember it was late October, and I was having a rough week of practice.

I was very ill, throwing up, just very, very, slouchy throughout the whole week.

Friday comes around, and I’m really hurting. I’m throwing up after every period.

Coach said, “Man, I know this can’t be my five-star partying.”

I’m like, “Naw, Coach. I haven’t been partying. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with my body. I’ve just been feeling like this all week.” The thing about it, though, was that I didn't feel sick, if that makes sense. It wasn’t like a fever or a virus. I just couldn’t hold nothing down.

I’m supposed to have it together, and I’m looking sloppy. I’m looking like I’m doing late nights at the clubs in Scottsdale.Patrick Peterson

So it’s the day before an away game. I check into my room and immediately see a text from Coach.

He said, “Come up to my room.”

Aw, shit. I ain’t never been to the coach’s room before. So I’m like, What the hell Coach want?

When I get up there, he tells me how he’s been keeping his eye on me all week. Whole time he’s talking, he’s looking at me kinda suspiciously. I mean, I get it. I’m his five-star. I’m supposed to have it together, and I’m looking sloppy. I’m looking like I’m doing late nights at the clubs in Scottsdale.

It didn’t help that I was weighing 229, consistently. For me, that’s heavy as hell.

I was pleading with him like, “Coach, I’m telling you, me and Tom trying to figure out what’s going on. I just don’t feel like myself. I can’t tell you what's going on. I just know I’m not right."

He’s like, “Yeah, I see that. I’ve been contemplating if I should play you tomorrow.” I’m like, “Naw Coach, I’m playing tomorrow. I practiced all week, I’m going to be fine.”

But I wasn’t fine. After that game, I ended up getting tested. They ran all my levels, and everything came back extremely high.

That was when they diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes.

It should have been comforting finally knowing what was happening to me. But to tell you the truth, I was terrified.

Ryan Kang via AP
Ryan Kang via AP

I was 24 years old at the time. I’m like, What the hell?

I cried like a baby in the doctor’s office. I was like, “Diabetes?? I’m a football player, I’m young, I’m in shape, I’m fit.” None of it made sense.

But the docs helped me figure out my diet and everything, and then I realized it wasn’t like a fatal diagnosis or the end of my career. I got my diet under control, and everything began to click for me. Once I figured out what was wrong with my body, I could focus on football again.

We ended up going to Dallas next, and I had a really good game that week. I finished the season off real strong and came into 2015, in unbelievable shape. That was when I really started to feel like myself again.

I can’t thank our medical team and our trainers enough — Tom, Chad, Dr. Kohl and Mr. Jeff. They helped me through a really scary time in my life. And the organization, the coaches, the fans — they stuck by me during it all. I’ll never forget that.

Sometimes it takes going through your lowest moments to realize how much you really mean to a place.

And how much that place means to you.

In 2019, I tested positive for PEDs.

I just knew I had no reason to cheat the game. I was still young, pretty prominent, no injuries, a good head on my shoulders. So it was just a weird, sad experience.

I’m usually a very laid-back, happy-go-lucky guy. I’m someone who likes to smile a lot. But during that time, my smile really faded.

There were some nights when I cried myself to sleep. I just wondered, Why me? It was like, I’d been taking this same thing for the last two seasons, so how all of a sudden is this happening? It put a big cloud over my head. But as a man, I just had to take my licks, put Band-Aids on my wounds and do my best to move forward. And that’s what I did. I hope it’s just another reminder to other players, especially young ones, that you have to be really careful with the things that you take, especially if you’re not a hundred percent of what’s all in it.

During that time, my smile really faded.Patrick Peterson

I guess that was all a part of the journey and God’s plan for me.

After six games out, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if the fans would still support me. If I would get booed or something. If they wouldn’t be as loud when I made a play.

But when I ran out on the field, it was all love.

And at that moment, in that stadium, this place meant everything to me.

Fifteen is what I said.

At the beginning of my career, I said I wanted to play at least 15 years, just like some of the best to ever do it.

Put it this way, all the great ones, all the guys who are in the Hall of Fame — you look at their résumés and see that most of those guys played around 15 years. The more you play, the more you have on tape to be what you want to be at the end of your career.

So, that means I have five more seasons, right? And that can fly by in the blink of an eye.

That being said, I’m really looking forward to this next chapter and finishing off strong. That means continuing to fight for that championship. I mean, that’s why we play the game, for the opportunity to hoist that Lombardi Trophy in the air. There’s nothing like knowing you’ve put everything into a season and it all ultimately leads up to that moment.

I don’t have one of those yet, so I’m still fighting and clawing to close out my 15 with a trophy.

Going to Minnesota, I’m lucky in that I feel like I’ve been put in a great position to do that. I’m really excited for this new journey, in this new state, with a new fan base that I can’t wait to get acquainted with. (Just gotta get my daughter on board!)

But when people start throwing around the L-word — when they start talking legacy — I know how I want to be remembered.

I hope Arizona puts my number up with all their greats — guys like Pat and Larry Wilson and J.V. Cain.

I spent the majority of my time in Arizona. I had a great time there. I built my career there….

It’s like I said when I was drafted:

I feel like I’m a Cardinal.

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Anybody who knows me knows I can’t leave without at least trying to thank everybody.

I was in Arizona for 10 years, and it really shows in all of the relationships I built.

First, I want to thank Mr. Bidwill, and the Bidwill family, for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams. It hurts that I can’t say this to him in person, but since this is my goodbye, I just want to give a very special thank you to Mr. Bidwill for everything he brought to this organization. And a big thank you to Rod Graves, the GM who drafted me. He told me that he always felt like I would be something special. I just thank God that I was able to fulfill his dreams and the goals and aspirations that he had for me.

I want to thank everybody who had a hand in making this organization what it was for the past 10 years. Funny enough, the video and equipment guys were the people that I was around the most. I feel like I grew up with them. I want to thank Mark Stein, Parker Brown and Jeff Schwimmer. I was around them every day for 10 years — through thick and thin. They were in the locker room when we lost, in the locker room when we won. They were a part of the team just as much as anyone who ran out on that field, you know what I mean? Literally a part of the locker room. So I’m going to miss those guys.

And I’m going to miss the women in the cafeteria as well. Taylor, Sarah, and Jessica. They did a great job of keeping us healthy. Jessica and Taylor were always on me because they know I love me some Popeye’s fried chicken. I had a tradition since I’ve been in the league that Fridays were my cheat day, and I had to have Popeye’s.

But I had a great time there with them. They’re the first people that I would see when I walked in the building. So I’m really going to miss them. That’s one thing I took pride in: Every morning I walked into the building, whoever was on the first floor — in the training room, weight room, treatment room, locker room, cafeteria — I made my rounds, and I said good morning to everybody. Every single morning.

I want to thank all my teammates, all my OG’s, past and present. Carson Palmer, by far my favorite teammate I’ve ever had, man. That dude was just so chill, down to earth, nothing ever fazed him. Everything that he stood for was just remarkable, and he definitely was the main guy, I believe, that helped us get Arizona’s name on the map.

Chris Johnson, CJ2K, a legend. D-Hop. K1, the Mighty Mouse, man. That dude is going to be unbelievable. It’s just been a pleasure to watch him grow. And to really see him take his career to the next level. He gets it. Arizona definitely got a good one.

Carson Palmer, by far my favorite teammate I’ve ever had, man.Patrick Peterson

I want to thank my man Richie Rich, who always had me right on the highlights, and Johnnie Boy. Lisa Matthews, she was our sideline reporter. She tried to teach me Spanish one time. (It didn’t stick, unfortunately. I can’t roll the r’s!) The pranksters in the video department, Rat, Craig and Spence. They were just so funny because they always had funny videos with all the bloopers. They were always putting peoples' faces on pictures. I just love their energy.

And of course, I gotta thank the Red Sea.

Y’all have given me everything and more.

I was a little sad to be leaving at first. I won’t lie, after 10 years, I wish everything had been a little more upfront in the end. It’s no secret that I was disappointed with the process and how everything went down.

But as I turn this corner, I can’t help but feel that it all worked out the way it was supposed to.

Hopefully, I’ll get to raise that trophy in this next chapter.

And when Minnesota plays Arizona this year, I’ll have an opportunity to drive down the Gate A ramp at State Farm stadium one last time.

I don’t know when we play, but I know I’ll be looking forward to riding down memory lane.

I’ll get to watch the sun dip behind the mountains again, and for a split second, I think I’ll allow myself to be that guy.

I’ll be Patrick Peterson — the Arizona Cardinal.