Here’s what Cardinals cornerback and punt returner Patrick Peterson said about returning punts Wednesday afternoon to Bay Area reporters on a conference call.
Q: The 49ers did a good job limiting your punt returns last year. Do you remember what they did and how much punter Andy Lee had to do with it?
PETERSON: Andy Lee, he’s probably the best punter in the National Football League right now, but those guys do such a great job at the gunner – 27 and 29 [C.J. Spillman and Chris Culliver] – those guys have extremely good speed. They can put the pressure on me to call a fair catch or disrupt my direction that’s set up for the return. Those guys did a great job last year of bottling me up with such great gunner play, and also Andy booting the ball down the field.
Q: Can you describe your mindset when you catch a punt?
PETERSON: First, I want to secure the ball. Ultimately, I want to rely on the ten guys in front of me trying to get me to the end zone. Without those guys, it wouldn’t be possible for me. As a punt returner, that’s pretty much my mindset – catching the ball and relying on the ten guys in front of me to spring me free and get me to the end zone. If those guys don’t do their job, it’s kind of tough for me to do my job, which is score with the ball.
Q: Have teams been doing anything differently in terms of how they punt to you this year?
PETERSON: They’re not giving me a chance. They’re putting the ball close on the sideline so they can peel everybody from the field so I can’t get back to the field. They want to bottle me up on the sideline so everybody can vice me in and keep me in one area versus giving me the whole field to work with – putting the ball on the hash or the numbers so I can have a good vision of the whole field Now, teams are just trying to kick it out of bounds, kick it high so their gunners and the rest of their team can force me…Like last week – the Minnesota Vikings were settling for 30-yard punts and they weren’t giving me a shot to return it. Teams are definitely coming with a different game plan week in and week out. We know the 49ers have a great punter in Andy, so I’m quite sure they’ll have a game plan. If not, we’ll just have to do our best as a punt return team to put our offense in great position or even score with it.
Q: Has it been frustrating at all?
PETERSON: Not at all. That’s kind of what I wanted – teams to have that kind of respect for me, because that means I’m doing my job at the best of my ability. I have a lot of respect from my peers and the coaching staffs from around the league. I think it’s a compliment. Not frustrated at all. At the same time I have to continue being patient, securing the catch, just doing my job when that opportunity presents itself.
Q: Giving what you said about Andy Lee’s ability to punt the ball downfield, are you hopeful that they won’t settle for short kicks along the sideline and that they will challenge you with some deep kicks that give you an opportunity to return punts?
PETERSON: I’m hoping that they do challenge me. That’s what I want. I want those guys to try to challenge me by punting the ball deep, having a little bit of time to scan the field and see where my guys are. That’s my goal. I hope those guys give me the opportunity to field a punt, but if they don’t, I just want to secure the catch. As long as we get the ball back to our offense. I just want to secure the ball first, and everything else will take care of itself.