Try picturing Patrick Peterson in any jersey other than that of the Arizona Cardinals. There's a reason it's challenging to conjure up that imagery in your mind.
The future Hall of Fame cornerback has never suited up for another club as he enters his 10th year in the NFL, having become a staple on the Cardinals roster and in the surrounding community. It's possible that run comes to an end in 2021, though, that is unless he and the team come to terms on a new deal soon.
Peterson wants everyone to pump their brakes on that possibility -- until further notice.
One day following the conclusion of Super Bowl LV, the eight-time Pro Bowler was stunned to find his name in the headlines as the subject of a report that stated he and the Cardinals would part ways this offseason. On Tuesday, he'd address the rumor head-on in his routine sit-down on "All Things Covered", a podcast he co-hosts with his cousin, former NFL cornerback and current CBS Sports HQ analyst Bryant McFadden.
"There's no real update and, like you said, it is a dirty rumor," Peterson said. "I woke up to it this morning as well. Me and the team haven't talked anything about contracts and we haven't [spoken about] parting ways. That's just what it is -- a dirty rumor. I don't know where [the reporter] got his insight from, but it was a dirty rumor and you're hearing it here."
The three-time All-Pro went on to note there haven't been any free agency conversations as of yet.
"[The report] went right over my head ... because the things they were saying in the report, I knew [weren't] true," he added. "That's why me and my team didn't budge [after hearing the rumor]. And free agency hasn't even started yet. ... I mean, the Super Bowl just got over with."
With that rumor put to bed, the reality remains something must be worked out to keep the Cardinals legend in Arizona going forward, and both sides know this much to be true. There was no new deal negotiated in 2020, and with Peterson set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, expect the absent talks to soon become present and accounted for. There's no doubt the 30-year-old wants to remain with the team he's spent his entire NFL career with and that gave him the nod as fifth-overall pick a decade ago, but he also understands what they offer or do not offer is out of his control.
Speaking to the latter in Week 1 of the 2020 season, Peterson chose to focus his energy on what happened on the field instead.
"There's nothing I can do about it," he said in September. "I'm under contract until the end of the season. All I can do right now is play ball. All I can do is worry about me.
"And when the time matches up perfectly, we can sit down and talk about some things."
Peterson became the gold standard at the position since carving his way into the NFL, and is still viewed as one of the best in the league. He's also been quite the ironman over the course of his career, having never missed a regular-season start due to injury in his 10 years in the league. His only absence came in 2019, when he was suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the league's performance-enhancement policy. He'd return to play in the remaining 10 games, delivering 53 combined tackles along with seven pass breakups, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
His three interceptions in 2020 were the most since 2016, proving he still has plenty of tread left on his tires -- now totaling 28 in his career. His 61 combined tackles were four shy of his career-best. Peterson is still a force in the defensive backfield, and now that he's fulfilled the final year of a five-year, $70.05 million contract that paid him $12.05 million in base salary last season, there will be no shortage of suitors when the gates to free agency fly open next month.
The Cardinals have the inside track in that race, however, and nothing has been decided about Peterson's future in State Farm Stadium.