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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Patrick Peterson was tired, overweight, sluggish, throwing gobs of candy daily into his mouth and drinking loads of sugar-infused drinks, which turned him into ballooned-up cornerback whose reactions slowed against a league full of swift, explosive receivers.
Shortly after signing a five-year contract extension for $70 million last summer, Peterson, the Arizona Cardinals' fifth-year corner, found himself facing the wrath of the media and fans, ripping him to shreds for taking the money and not living up to the expectations.
Peterson Island was sinking, but nobody knew why.
He didn't even know why.
“I didn't know what was happening,” Peterson said. “As the season started going on, I started to get much more fatigued. I'm a morning guy. I am an energy guy, always going. Guys were seeing I'm sluggish. They're like, 'This is not Pat P. This is not the guy we know.'”
Peterson had Type-2 diabetes.
With his weight getting up to 226 pounds, and his reactions slowed with each extra pound, Peterson struggled in a big way in coverage early in the season. It was clear he wasn't the same player, a player who argued last summer with Richard Sherman about who was the league's best corner.
It was clear something was wrong with Peterson, but nobody outside his immediate family and some in the Cardinals organization knew why. So Peterson just took all of it, every bit of the criticism, all the harsh words and the perception that he was a player who got paid and decided to coast. When Atlanta's Julio Jones lit him up in a game, which was proceeded by trash talk by Peterson before the game, it put him squarely in the crosshairs, yet he never said a word.
“I would never make an excuse,” Peterson said. “If I would have said, 'I have diabetes, that's why I wasn't able to make this play, this is why I wasn't able to do that,' I would look like a guy who can't own up to his play. If I am doing something wrong, I will own up to it. As far as going to the media, I always keep this inside. I just didn't think that was a good alley out. I wanted to get better.”
“He's not one of those guys to put his business out there,” said Cardinals corner/safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is Peterson's good friend. “He didn't complain at all. He got that big contract and people thought money was the reason. They had no idea. He's a tough guy for finishing the season through all that.”
After finding out he was diabetic, and undergoing a litany of food testing to find out what foods his body responded to, Peterson's play improved. He felt better, and it showed on the field. He ate better, cutting out candy, sodas and even Gatorade. He wasn't sluggish anymore.
“I am much more aware of what's going on with my body,” Peterson said last week during a break at Cardinals camp. “This is a Ferrari and I don't want to put regular gas in it. Put premium in there.”
After looking like a broken down old Ford Pinto for much of the 2014 season, Peterson is back to being sleek and fast again. His weight is down to 203 pounds, which is two pounds less than he weighed when he came out of high school. He eats clean and the food-intolerence tests have helped him figure out what he can and can't eat. The bags of candy that used to sit in his locker are a thing of the past.
"He looks 10 years younger,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians sad.
Watching Peterson on the practice field, it's easy to see what the shedding of weight has done for his game. He is much faster and quicker with his reactions, but it's not just the physical part. Mentally, he's sharp again.
“It (diabetes) is not good for energy and mental mindset,” Peterson said. “Now I have a clear understanding. I am ready to roll.”
“Mentally, it was messing with him,” Arians said. “He got frustrated because his body wouldn't let him make the plays he normally would make.”
During the work I watched last week, Peterson had a much quicker break on the football than I saw on tape a year ago, a clear indication that he is ready to get back to his shutdown corner ways.
“I feel much quicker,” Peterson said. “As you can see, I am leaner. I feel faster. My time is now. The clock is ticking. I am going into year five. This is the year for me. I believe that I am going to stand behind that. I believe if I am able to stay healthy, this could possibly be a Defensive Player of the Year for me.”
The beat-up jalopy is gone. Sleek and fast is back.
“The Ferrari is back,” Peterson said.
By Pete Prisco | cbssports.com | August 11, 2015