Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons said Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is a more difficult assignment as a receiver than Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
In a video interview with Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, Jones was asked which of the All-Pro cornerbacks “is tougher to play for you.”
“Probably Patrick Peterson,” Jones said. “Like I said, because for me, he follows me everywhere. Sherman every now and then. He usually plays the right side.”
Peterson was an All-Pro selection in 2011 and 2013. Sherman was an All-Pro pick in 2012 and 2013. Last season, Sherman led the NFL in interceptions and was the face of the league’s best defense, which the Seahawks rode to a Super Bowl victory.
Peterson and Sherman have been down the who-is-best road already. In a May radio interview, Peterson said of Sherman: “Obviously, his job is definitely much easier than mine. If you look at their scheme and look at our scheme, he’s a cover 3 corner. Period.”
This set off a Twitter exchange between them with Sherman saying Peterson wasn’t a “lockdown corner” and that the Cardinals “ask u to stop them. Not let them score at will.”
But because Sherman usually plays a side of the field and not a particular receiver, stats compiled by Pro Football Focus said Sherman covered the opponent’s top receiver 31 percent of the time during the 2013 season and Peterson did so 55 percent of the time.
Jones, Peterson and Sherman all reached the NFL in 2011. Jones has played one NFL game against Peterson. On Nov. 11, 2012, Jones had three receptions for 33 yards in Atlanta’s 23-19 victory over Arizona. Jones has played two games against Seattle. In his fourth NFL game, Jones caught 11 passes for 137 yards in Atlanta’s 30-28 victory over Seattle on Oct. 2, 2011. In Atlanta’s 30-28 victory over the Seahawks in an NFC playoff game on Jan. 13, 2013, Jones caught six passes for 59 yards.
Atlanta hosts Arizona on Nov. 30 for the Falcons’ 12th game of the 2014 season. Seattle is not on Atlanta’s 2014 regular-season schedule.
Jones and Peterson were adversaries before they reached the NFL. Jones played at Alabama, and Peterson played at LSU.
“I’ve been playing Pat since college,” Jones said. “Me and him had our share of battles. We go back and forth. We’ve got respect for each other. There’s no trash talking or anything.”
Jones also likes Peterson’s versatility.
“He does everything,” Jones said. “Not only being cornerback, he comes over and catches a few balls on offense. He returns kicks and punts.”
The Falcons are holding minicamp this week, but Jones is not participating. He has been held out of practice during the offseason as he continues his recover from a broken foot. Jones suffered the injury in the fifth game of the 2013 season. He was leading the NFL in receptions at the time.
The former Foley High School standout had the same problem after his final season at Alabama. The procedure this time included removing the broken screw from the first operation, putting a larger screw in his foot and transferring bone marrow from Jones’ hip to help it heal.
“My hip hurt worse than my foot did,” Jones said. “It was like a bone transplant. It’s one of the most painful surgeries out there. I don’t take any pain meds either. I am a very natural person. The hip was killing me. I didn’t even feel my foot. I am used to dealing with the foot. I am used to playing with it. My hip, I couldn’t sit up. I had to lay down.”
Jones said he feels good, but he needs the green light from the team’s trainers and coaches to get back on the field.
“I am back doing the little things I used to do,” Jones said. “I am back to the old Julio. I feel like I am actually stronger now. I’ve been doing back squats, loading up and getting my quads more stronger, more so than my hamstrings. That might have been a problem as well. (I’m trying) to balance my strength in my quads and my glutes to make sure everything is equal so I don’t put that amount of force and pressure on the outside of my foot.”
Once he’s back in form, Jones said no cornerback should be able to cover “the best receiver in the league” one-on-one.
“No one should be able to cover (me) one-on-one,” Jones said. “Nobody knows where you are going. With the speed and explosion I have, I don’t think anybody can cover me unless they grab me because you are in a backpedal. I am coming at you 100 miles per hour. I can go left, right, any way I want to, or run right past you. You can’t cover that. Not one-on-one.”
THE COMPLETE CBSSPORTS.COM VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH JULIO JONES