It’s almost easier to ask former LSU All-American Patrick Peterson what he can’t do on a football field rather than what he can do.
It would definitely take less time.
The exploits of the Arizona Cardinals’ third-year pro have been well chronicled after he made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons as a kick returner and cornerback, respectively, the second player in NFL history to do that, along with Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.
But Peterson gained even more notoriety for his play on offense in a 25-21 win Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
In addition to his cornerback duties, which included him matching up with Lions’ All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson most of the day, Peterson caught a 17-yard pass and threw a 17-yard pass — the first defender to do that since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The past two seasons, he played in the wildcat formation as well as wide receiver when he wasn’t playing defense or running back kicks.
“I don’t think there’s much I can’t do,” Peterson said with a laugh Wednesday during a conference call with Louisiana reporters.
When asked what he’s going to do next, Peterson again chuckled and said, “We’ll see … only the future knows. It’s going to be something special. We’ve got a lot planned up our sleeves.”
Whether that comes Sunday when the Cardinals meet the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome remains to be seen, but Peterson is certainly game for whatever they ask him to do.
Peterson, who starred at LSU from 2008-10, said he knew he would be used in all kinds of situations on offense shortly after Arians, a former Saints assistant, was hired to replace Ken Whisenhunt.
“Once we had our first meeting, he told me some of the things he was looking forward to me doing — which was going out there, shutting down the opponent’s No. 1 receiver, and obviously giving me a couple of snaps on offense,” Peterson said. “It was something he brought up.
“He saw me play a couple of offensive snaps last year and my rookie year, so he kind of wanted to kind of keep it going. I got a much bigger role on the offensive side, which is a compliment to me.”
Arians, a long-time NFL assistant whose background is on offense, certainly knew what he had in the physically gifted 6-foot-1, 219-pound Peterson.
“I saw him the first day of OTAs intercept a ball one-handed and tip it to his other hand, and run down the field,” Arians said. “Nobody could touch him. It was like, ‘Whoa. This guy could be a top-five receiver in the National Football League.’ He has that skill set.”
Arians said he has to be careful that Peterson doesn’t get too overworked on offense because, obviously, his first priority is on the defensive side.
“He’s got to play Calvin Johnson, or he’s got to defend Marques Colston, or somebody else,” he said. “He’s got another job. Our offensive coaches always say, ‘Get Patrick over here. ... This would be a great play for Patrick.’ You have to really watch yourself that you don’t overload him.”
In the first two games, Peterson played 124 of a possible 125 snaps on defense and eight offensive snaps. He’s also been in on 19 special-teams plays, although he’s yet to shake loose on a long punt return.
Saints wide receiver Nick Toon marveled at what Peterson is able to do in getting snaps on offense, considering the third-year pro is playing at a high level on defense with seven interceptions a year ago.
“You always want to compete against great athletes, and he’s in that category,” Toon said. “You don’t come across guys every day that have the natural ability — athletically — to do what he’s able to do.”
Arians said he knew from afar that Peterson was a good football player, but got a first-hand look at his athleticism on the golf course soon after taking the Cardinals’ job.
“I didn’t know that he was that unbelievable of an athlete,” Arians said. “What really sold me is when I saw him play golf. He taught himself in his basement, and he shoots 75.
“He took all of my money. He taught himself on a simulator in his basement, and he smashes the ball about 290 (yards) in the air.”
So what is Peterson going to do next on the football field, kick a field goal?
“We’re working on that,” Arians said, “he just can’t beat out (kicker) Jay (Feely) yet.”
Maybe, but don’t bet against him doing it one day.
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