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Marcus Peters, Chiefs said all the right things; now let’s play football

The former Kansas City Chiefs first-round pick will take on his former team for the first time when Rams host the Chiefs at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Monday night.

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams-Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as the Kansas City Chiefs’ schedule was released, we all knew the matchup with the Los Angeles Rams would be one to watch for many reasons.

Primetime. America’s IT coach against the old guard. Mexico City.

And there was also Marcus Peters—the former 18th overall pick and 2015 defensive rookie of the year that the Chiefs traded away in exchange for draft picks back in February — the reasons for which I believe will never become fully clear. That is a topic that has been exhausted.

Shortly after the trade, Peters was asked about the game and competing against now-Chiefs starter Patrick Mahomes.

“I’m expecting turnovers and I’m expecting a win,” Peters, who practiced against Mahomes as he worked the scout team, said at the time. “[Patrick Mahomes knows] how to give me the ball.”

In June, Chiefs legend Tamba Hali provided another side of the story.

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs
Peters and Tamba
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

“You’re going to get a complete player,” Hali said of Mahomes. “He’s a smart player. He can throw the ball. Athletically, he’s gifted. You don’t have to coach him. In practice, I’ve watched him just look guys off—Eric Berry, look him off, complete a ball. He did it to Marcus Peters a lot—people don’t know what’s coming. I don’t want to hype him but I compare him to Brett Favre. He runs around the field, he throws the ball. He’s just having fun.”

Hali was quite prophetic, as it turned out. To date, Mahomes leads the league with 31 passing touchdowns and more than 3,400 yards. Peters, on the other hand, has struggled.

Mahomes was asked about the matchup against Peters this week, and he answered before shifting his thoughts to the LA defense as a whole.

“I think he’s going to play to his strengths and I’m going to play to mine,” Mahomes said. “He’s a great player, but they have a great defense in general, so I’m worried about the whole entire team, the whole entire defense. I’m going to try and go and do the stuff that we’ve been doing well all season long.”

Thinking back to last season when he would be up against Peters in practice, Mahomes was complimentary of Peters’ competitive spirit.

“He’s a really talented player, but he goes out there every single day and he competes,” Mahomes said. “He loves this game. Being able to play against guys like that, just like the rest of their defense, with Aaron Donald and (Ndamukong) Suh, (Lamarcus) Joyner and all those guys. They have a lot of guys that love football and love to compete, and you get to play against the best.”

But Mahomes won’t be up against Peters and the Rams defense alone. Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is also tasked with beating the former Chief.

“Watching [Peters] and being on that sideline and seeing him practice each and every day, you have to be careful what you want to try and expose him to,” Bieniemy said. “He has tremendous ball skills. He is very intelligent, and he does a great job of studying film. He knows what you are going to do. What that does is allows him to anticipate certain routes versus certain formations. He does a great job of playing off and observing.

“He’s a dangerous player. I know that he has had his struggles but understanding that he has been here for five or four years or whatever it was. He has practiced against us on a daily basis. We just want to make sure we pick and choose our moments.”

Peters recently addressed his poor play after the Rams’ only loss of the season to the New Orleans Saints.

Asked by the Kansas City media this week if he liked Peters’ willingness to own his poor play, Rams head coach Sean McVay defended Peters on a local conference call with the Kansas City media.

“100 percent,” McVay said. “We talk about it all the time—demonstrating accountability, taking full ownership for our actions and for our performance, no excuses, no complaining as coaches and as players. When some of your best players demonstrate that accountability, that’s powerful, and I think it demonstrates a security on his part, and it’s something that you certainly appreciate.

“I think guys that are secure enough in ourselves and willing to be vulnerable when things don’t always work out perfect is actually a demonstration of strength and I think that’s what he did right there.”

McVay added that perhaps Peters’ numbers this season aren’t telling the whole story of how he has performed.

“The reality is we put him in a lot of difficult spots where he’s one on one with the opposing team’s best receiver,” McVay said. “What’s great about this league is sometimes guys will make some plays but the best part about Marcus or really any great corner that I can think of, I’ve ever evaluated or watched from afar—they’re going to get beat but their ability to respond and not flinch, not blink, not be phased by it is what makes elite athletes that are mentally tough special, and I think Marcus demonstrates that.”

With question marks surrounding the status of Sammy Watkins due to his foot injury, there is an expectation that Peters will be up against his former teammate in Tyreek Hill, who currently stands at No. 6 in the league in receiving yards. Hill also has nine touchdowns on the season.

“Hey, I’m always having fun,” Hill said when asked about Peters on Saturday. “I’m always competing, no matter who I go against. [Peters] is a tremendous player, a tremendous teammate toward us while he was here, so I can’t wait for the challenge.”

While in Kansas City, Peters, ever the gamer, would occasionally let his emotions get the best of him on the football field.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There were times that passion was bad — like the time he threw a flag into the stands against the New York Jets — but there was also times that passion was good. He would play his absolute heart out for the Chiefs when they visited Oakland, Peters’ hometown, which he holds so dear. There was the time against the Carolina Panthers in which he ripped the game out of Kelvin Benjamin’s hands.

Knowing that passion, the Los Angeles media asked Peters this week if there would be any extra feeling in playing the Chiefs on Monday night, and he said it was just another game on the schedule.

“No,” Peters said. “I’m really going to be excited to see Emmitt Thomas, Al Harris, the rest of the DB group. A few other players like Justin Houston. I hope EB (Eric Berry) makes the trip. Nah. It’s football, bro.”

But Bieniemy knows Peters all too well.

“Anytime a player is playing against his former team, they get excited for that,” Bieniemy said. “That’s what you’re supposed to. I did. But when it’s all said and done with, it’s still the Rams versus the Chiefs, and I’m sure Marcus wants to do whatever he can to help his team win just like I want our players to go out and do whatever they can to help us to win.”

Peters was also questioned about the ending in Kansas City.

“I can’t do nothing about it,” he said, when talking about the trade. “I didn’t ask for it. You know? I appreciate everything the Kansas City Chiefs did for me and my family for giving me the opportunity to play in this league. Now I’m just loving it and enjoying being an LA Ram.”

When it came to Mahomes, Peters’ tune of anger from June has shifted to one of respect from afar.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

“He’s an excellent player,” Peters said of Mahomes. “That’s why they took him where they took him at when they trade up with them having Alex at the time...I’ve seen all the tools that he had that you guys are seeing right now in practice all year last year, so you respect the young man for what he’s doing in this league and we go play football.”

Over the course of his three years in Kansas City, Peters compiled 55 passes defensed and 19 interceptions. He was named a first-team All-Pro in 2016.

This season, he has just four passes defensed and one interception, no longer looking like the player he once was for Kansas City.

The Chiefs saw his best. And whether or not they will on Monday night is deservedly one of the game’s biggest storylines.

I think whether he has a chip or not, he’s a dangerous player,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “Marcus has unique ball skills. I’m just telling you. It’s unique. He can locate, track a ball as good as anybody I have ever seen, and I’m talking really with his back turned to the ball, covering a receiver, and he can turn his head and he can find a ball, and that’s not easy. A lot of DBs that can’t do that. There’s some receivers that can’t do that as well, and he has that great ability to do it ... and the other thing about Marcus that I think goes unnoticed is he’s a smart football player. He knows football. He knows formations. He knows splits. He’s a smart dude. And you put smart dude and unique skills like he has. To me, that’s what’s dangerous

“I don’t think the chip on his shoulder maybe motivates him, great, but I’d be worried about him whether he had a chip or didn’t.”

We may never know the complete story of why Peters is no longer a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. But regardless of all the chatter, coach and player-speak, Monday will mean more to the 25-year-old — just like all the games he played for the Chiefs in Oakland.

I understand there is one way to look at this matchup, but I hope most Chiefs fans look at it from another way.

For as messy as everything ended, Peters said all the right things this week — as did the Chiefs.

“I know he’ll be excited to go against a lot of people that he values and has great relationships with and it should be fun,” McVay added.

Now let’s play football.

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