This past offseason was an extra long one for Arizona Cardinals nose tackle Corey Peters.
His 2020 season ended when he got carted off of the field with a torn patellar tendon in Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills.
Peters had to enter free agency as a soon-to-be 33-year-old lineman rehabbing from knee surgery.
“It was incredibly difficult,” Peters said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Obviously, when you have a major injury, a lot of the process is take a step forward and take two steps backwards. So, it can be very frustrating. Very much so a roller coaster of emotions.”
He also mentioned that his contract status created even more stress. But, Peters eventually re-signed with the Cardinals during training camp on Aug. 2.
That gave him roughly five weeks to get ready for the start of the 2021 season with his team.
“When I had surgery, what we talked about was potentially being ready for Week 1,” Peters said. “We weren’t exactly sure if that means ‘Yeah, you’re cleared to play but you haven’t been able to prepare.’ But I’ve been very pleased with the process. I feel like I had time to condition and then work my way back into things.”
On Sunday, Peters took the field with the Cardinals in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans and performed like he never left.
He played just 15 defensive snaps, but in that span, he was a disrupter, especially against the run. He had two tackles for loss and nearly a touchdown return.
In the first quarter, Arizona edge rusher Chandler Jones knocked the ball away from Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill while he rolled out on play-action. Peters picked the ball up and ran towards the end zone. He dove to the goal line, and the initial call was a touchdown.
Upon further review, the officials said he was stopped just short.
“I thought he had some real impactful plays,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said in a press conference on Monday. “He’s such a great presence in that room.”
Peters said that nothing could take away his strong feelings about being back on the field, but he was less bummed about not scoring when he saw the Cardinals offense convert.
Quarterback Kyler Murray hit wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the back of the end zone for the first touchdown of the season.
As Peters made an impact early, his confidence rose. As difficult as the offseason was, he is back and in position to have a role, even though he is no longer a starter on the depth chart.
The Cardinals assembled depth on the defensive line over the past couple of offseasons. This will limit the strain on each lineman, as Sunday was showing of how they will rotate players in and out.
Second-year player Rashard Lawrence is now the starting nose tackle, but he says he would not be the player he is without Peters’ guidance.
“He’s taught me so much about the nose tackle position,” Lawrence told the media before the season. “He’s still got a lot left in the tank and he’s a hell of a player.”
Peters called the defensive line depth a strength of the team, and something that will help to keep himself and the rest of the unit fresh throughout a longer 17-game season.