From golf buddies to practice adversaries, Adam Thielen and Patrick Peterson are sure to produce plenty of highlights over the next few months.
Both former Pro Bowl talents and elder statesmen at their respective positions with the Minnesota Vikings , the 30-year-old veterans have drawn each other often in OTAs.
But before getting into team drills on Wednesday, Peterson and coach Mike Zimmer stepped aside and fine-tuned his press coverage techniques.
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The lesson paid off as Peterson produced a picture-perfect pass breakup on his first matchup with Thielen.
The play offers plenty of encouraging signs for Peterson, who hopes to reinvent his career after a pair of down seasons with the Arizona Cardinals .
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Thielen Played a Part in Peterson’s Arrival in Minnesota
Before Peterson signed a one-year, $8 million fully guaranteed contract with the Vikings in March, cap space needed to be cleared.
Thielen’s contract came under the microscope of cap wizard Rob Brezinski. Minnesota converted $10 million of Thielen’s $11.1 million base salary for the 2021 season into a signing bonus spread across the final four years of his contract, per Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson.
While Thielen didn’t technically take a pay cut, he put off guaranteed money to later years for the Vikings to sign Peterson — a move he met with fanfare.
Peterson met his signing with Minnesota as an opportunity for the team to seize its potential.
“Coach Zim’s football teams do a great job on the offensive side of taking care of the football. Captain Kirk (Cousins) had, I believe, his best year throwing the ball, you have Justin Jefferson on the outside, Adam (Thielen), who is a good golf buddy of mine, Dalvin (Cook), you got weapons all over the place and that’s just on the offensive side of the ball,” Peterson said. “You got Anthony Barr, Harrison (Smith), myself, D-Hunter, I know I’m forgetting some people, but we’re loaded. If we can come in here and stick to the three core values around here, I believe it was ‘unity, commitment and relentless(ness),’ you get all 53 guys on the same page for 16 games — it might be 17 games this year if I’m not mistaken — we have a chance to do something pretty special.”
How Peterson Can Thrive in 2021
Peterson, an eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro honoree, hasn’t earned either award recognition since 2018.
He faced a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy in 2019 and struggled in 2020, posting his worst Pro Football Focus coverage grade (53.1) since his rookie year. He also led all cornerbacks in penalties (12) last season.
His woes in coverage came largely due to the Cardinals using him in press coverage — which was his calling card in his prime.
However, Peterson has aged and doesn’t have the same speed he once did.
He hopes Zimmer can help him learn to play in a way that complements his veteran expertise and knowledge after the Vikings coached worked his magic with older cornerbacks in the past.
“[Zimmer’s] reputation speaks for itself. The things he does with not only the defense but with defensive backs… Deion Sanders, Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Johnathon Joseph, the list goes on and he’s able to further got those guys’ careers,” Peterson said in his first press conference as a Viking earlier this offseason. “Those guys played 13-14 plus years. Coach Zim has something that he’s given those guys to help repave their career for new heights.”