GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In football, the saying has a twist: With a great contract comes great responsibility.
The shock and awe of Patrick Peterson's record-setting five-year extension that was worth $70 million, $48 million of which was guaranteed, has worn off by now, as the Arizona Cardinals enter week two of training camp. Watching Peterson this year has shown that in Year 4 he’s already a team leader. He’s spoken on behalf of his team on touchy issues, such as John Abraham’s absence from training camp. He’s usually the last player signing autographs after practice, a habit that’s rubbed off on his teammates recently. He answers questions open and honestly, and deflects credit to his teammates as much as he can.
But while he tried to downplay the notion that his extension doesn’t come with added responsibility because he’s already a leader, already improving, and already wanting to win championships, Peterson innocently added pounds of accountability to his already sturdy frame. It came in the form of six words that Peterson repeated in one form or another throughout his press conference Wednesday: Highest paid cornerback in the NFL.
It would have been one thing if Peterson made the remarks after being asked about the title of being the best compensated at his position -- which the Cardinals accomplished by paying Peterson $10,000 per season more than Seattle’s Richard Sherman -- but Peterson kept bringing it up himself. There’s no doubting Peterson is a proud man, especially after agreeing to his new deal. Because he kept saying it made the attention on that fact even greater.
Whether his teammates or coaches don’t think so, Peterson’s bar will now be higher. More in the locker room, more around the community and certainly more on the field will be expected out of him. He’s entered a new stratosphere in the NFL. He’ll now part of the same conversation as Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, Seattle’s Earl Thomas, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews and Buffalo’s Mario Williams, all of whom are the highest paid at their positions.
Life just changed for Peterson, but if there’s one 24-year-old in the NFL who’s capable of living up to those expectations, it’s Peterson.
“He’s very, very mature,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “And I don’t like using that role model world but he’s a perfect citizen.”
While more eyes will be on him because he is now the highest paid corner in the league, those who share a locker room with him don’t expect anything more.
“That’s just unnecessary pressure,” Cardinals veteran Darnell Dockett said. “Just continue to do what he does. Before he even signed a contract like that, he was a leader so nothing should change.
“His responsibility is the same: Be the best corner and be accountable and just show guys how it’s supposed to be done.”
That won’t change but now Peterson has 70 million reasons to make sure it doesn’t.