NEW ORLEANS – A couple weeks ago, I wrote this column on LSU’s Patrick Peterson and pondered if the Carolina Panthers should break an unwritten NFL rule and take the cornerback with the No. 1 overall pick.
It’s never been done before. In the modern era, Shawn Springs was the earliest-drafted cornerback and that came when Seattle took him at No. 3 in 1997. But lots of experts are saying Peterson might be the best overall player in this draft and the Panthers certainly have been doing their homework on him.
They attended his pro day and Peterson and coach Ron Rivera had a private meeting over dinner. Rivera also said during Tuesday’s NFL owners meeting the Panthers will start bringing in draft prospects for official visits in about a week and it seems likely Peterson is on that list.
But one league source said Peterson might be driving down his draft stock by privately telling some teams he’s not crazy about performing return duties in the NFL. The source said his team was told Peterson doesn’t want to handle kickoff returns or punt returns.
When meeting with reporters at his pro day, Peterson publicly said that at least is partly true.
"I don't want to play kick (off) returner in the NFL -- too much exposure,’’ Peterson said. “So I believe I'll be better and more of a threat at punt return. Obviously, that's where I scored twice this year. No kickoffs."
I asked Rivera this morning if Peterson’s return abilities are a factor in Carolina’s thought process and if the issue had been discussed with Peterson.
“You’ve got to take everything into account and what else does he do for you,’’ Rivera said. “Is he a guy that could potentially play offense? Is he a guy that could potentially play defense? Is he a guy that could potentially return? If he impacts you in more than one way, yeah, certainly it helps. We’ve had an opportunity to listen to him talk about it and he’s talked about his return ability.’’