Stakes high for Fitzgerald vs. Peterson


TEMPE, Ariz. -- It’s among the matchups everyone at the Pro Bowl wanted to see -- and was scared would happen.

Teammates facing teammates.

When the NFL decided on a format with conferences for this year’s all-star game, the questions started forming: Will one teammate hit another? Will they take it easy on each other?

Well, we’ll see Sunday when Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson will line up across from his teammate, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The second day of the Pro Bowl draft saw three of the Cardinals’ four Pro Bowlers selected. Fitzgerald and linebacker John Abraham went to Team Rice while Peterson was chosen by Team Sanders. During Day 1, gunner Justin Bethel was assigned to Team Rice.

The two -- Peterson and Fitzgerald -- line up against each other on a daily basis in practice, but never when they’re allowed to strap on the pads and hit each other. It’ll be interesting to see how Peterson covers Fitzgerald, especially since he has such an intimate knowledge of the receiver's game.

Then again, by watching Peterson every day, Fitzgerald knows exactly how to get the youngster out of his rhythm.

Although it’s just for fun and games, watching these two face off will be compelling football. It was Fitzgerald who taught Peterson the intricacies of running routes and how to line up as a receiver when Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians decided to use Peterson as an offensive weapon. Peterson is also very cerebral, so it won’t be surprising if he uses Fitzgerald’s education against the 30-year-old.

Another lesser-discussed result of this matchup could be a changing of the guard. Fitzgerald is a 10-year veteran, the face of the Cardinals’ franchise. Peterson is just 23 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his three seasons in the NFL. It’s a matter of time before Peterson wants to assume that role (if he hasn’t already expressed his desire privately to be the face of the Cardinals), which won’t be available until Fitzgerald either retires, is traded or released.

How Peterson does against Fitzgerald can send a message to the franchise and the rest of the NFL that Peterson is ready to shoulder the weight of being the team’s representative.

Will the young buck dominate the old man? Or will the wily veteran prove he hasn’t lost anything at 30?

We’ll see Sunday.