Peterson limited due to Mathieu's injury

TEMPE, Ariz. – When Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said last week that Patrick Peterson wouldn't be returning as many punts in 2014, it was news to everyone but Peterson.

During his exit interview with Arians in December, Peterson was informed about the upcoming move. In some ways, Peterson was more than OK with the decision because the goal was to keep him healthy.

"I think it's going to save my body tremendously," Peterson said. "Last year, I had too many friendly fires by getting hit by own teammates. I don't want to say it wore me down. It kinda made me skeptical about, 'OK, am I going to get hit by my own teammate? Am I safe when I fair catch this ball if I need to run up real quick to catch one of those high hang-time but short kicks?'"

Peterson returned 33 punts in 2013 for 198 yards, both of which were career lows. His 22 fair catches were the second most of his career. And for the second straight year, Peterson didn't return a punt for a touchdown.

Last offseason there was talk that then-rookie Tyrann Mathieu would share some of Peterson's punt responsibilities, but the first and only kick Mathieu returned in 2013 was also his last. Against the St. Louis Rams in Week 14, Mathieu fielded a free kick and suffered a torn ACL and LCL during the return.

That was all Arians needed to see.

"Even when [Mathieu] got hurt [Arians] was always telling me, 'Obviously, we know you want to make a big play but be safe,'" Peterson said. "This game is rough and ruthless as it is, that's kinda tough to do because our goal is and our passion is and with the competitiveness is always to make a big play happen. And we know freakish accidents happen like that but [Arians] doesn't want to put his No. 1 corner in harm's way by having him back there punt returning knowing guys in our division are picking up guys just for special teams.

"I think he wants to get me out of that limelight in the punt return and just kinda save my body on the defensive side of the ball."

Since he tied an NFL record with four punts for touchdowns in 2011, teams have figured out ways to neutralize Peterson. Arians didn't want Peterson's ability to go to waste last year so he tried playing Peterson at wide receiver, but those days are all but over.

With the signing of Ted Ginn during the offseason and drafting John Brown and Walt Powell, the need to use Peterson's speed has decreased.

"That's cool as well," Peterson said. "Whatever it takes to help this team win ballgames, I'm all for it -- except for taking me off cornerback.

"I'm quite sure I'm still going to get a couple reps here in the offseason to kinda see if I still got it. But we'll see where it takes me. I don't think he's completely taking me off the offensive side. We'll see when camp comes around."