Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson suspended for six games

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, shown here defending against Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, has been suspended for six game for violating the NFL’s drug program.

The Arizona Cardinals, facing a season of hope and change, took a hit May 16 when it was announced that one of their best and most popular players will be suspended for six games.

The NFL released a statement saying cornerback Patrick Peterson violated the league’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances.

Peterson, 29, will miss four of the Cardinals’ eight home games this season.

He will also miss home games against the Detroit Lions (September 8), Carolina Panthers (September 22), Seattle Seahawks (September 29) and Atlanta Falcons (October 13).

He will also miss two road games against the Baltimore Ravens (September 15) and the Cincinnati Bengals (October 6).

He is eligible to return to the field October 20, when the Cardinals visit the New York Giants.

“Peterson is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games,” the NFL statement said.

“He will be allowed to return to the team October 14, following the team’s Week 6 game at Atlanta.”

The suspension also makes Peterson ineligible for any NFL postseason honors, including the Pro Bowl — which will end his streak of eight straight Pro Bowl appearances.

According to NFL policy, a positive test for a banned substance in addition to the presence of a diuretic or masking agent in an attempt to dilute the sample or alter the result will result in a six-game suspension.

During his eighth annual charity golf Tournament in Scottsdale May 16, Peterson made a statement on his suspension.

“Definitely, definitely sorry for what broke out today. For the most part, I think you guys understand my character and also understand my commitment on and off the field and also to my teammates and also to the Arizona Cardinals organization,” Peterson said.

“That is why this is very, very hard for me because I have obviously never been in this situation and never wanted to have my name attached to anything like this.

“I am looking to move forward and put this behind me.”

While reports do not specify exactly what substance Peterson allegedly used, the suspension will cost Peterson $3.882 million in salary.

Peterson has been under investigation for some time, and he recently dropped his appeal.

In a statement, the Cardinals said, “(Peterson) recognizes how disappointing this is for everyone in the organization as well as our fans. As we all do, he understands that regardless of intent he is ultimately responsible for everything he puts in his body. Our coaching staff and our players are now aware that we will have to play the first six games without (Peterson) and they understand they have to rise to the challenge that it presents.”

The timing of the suspension is a strike to the team, which increased expectations by hiring Kliff Kingsbury and drafting quarterback Kyler Murray this year.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green recently called Peterson the best cornerback in the league. Peterson has never missed a game since he was drafted fifth overall by the Cardinals in 2011, and his 23 interceptions are the third most in the NFL. He has 76 passes defended.

He has made the Pro Bowl in each season of his eight-year career, and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Peterson also said he had known the suspension was coming, but the plan was for the suspension to be announced the following week.

“Deeply disappointed that it had to come out today, but it did, and I am just happy that now I can put it behind me,” Peterson said.

“I knew about it for months so I am just happy, not happy but relieved, this it is out and I can move forward. It is deeply disappointing that I’m obviously attached to something like this but now I can put it behind and just looking forward to coming back and facing the New York Giants.”

He is one of seven defenders in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons.

Six of the other seven — Dick Butkus, Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas, Joe Greene, Merlin Olsen, and Mel Renfro — are in the NFL Hall of Fame.