Cornerback Marcus Peters sure knows how to make a first impression.
On his first play with the Kansas City Chiefs, the inaugural snap of his NFL career in 2015, he intercepted a pass against the Houston Texans.
In his first game with the Rams in 2018, he returned an interception for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders on “Monday Night Football.”
And, less than a week after being traded from Los Angeles to Baltimore last month, Peters had a pick-six at Seattle in an upset of the Seahawks.
A man of few words — at least to reporters — and many interceptions, Peters sat at his locker and shrugged when asked about those dashing debuts.
“It’s just part of football, man,” he said. “Those things happen. You’ve got to capitalize when you have those opportunities.”
If only his exits were as graceful as his entrances. He’s 26, has eye-popping numbers at one of the most important positions in the game, and already has been traded twice. He will return to the Coliseum on Monday night to face the Rams, who traded him Oct. 15 largely as a cost-cutting move and to facilitate a trade with Jacksonville for cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Asked whether being traded by the Rams surprised him, Peters said: “That’s done for me. I’ve been here for four [now five] weeks. Just trying to play football.”
Peters had become a liability with the Rams, someone who occasionally made big plays but was often picked on by opposing quarterbacks, as New Orleans’ Drew Brees did last season on a long touchdown pass to Michael Thomas. On that play, the star Saints wide receiver got behind Peters, who leaped in vain for the ball, only to watch Thomas cruise into the end zone for a 72-yard score.
So far, Baltimore has found a way to take advantage of his strengths as a zone corner and avoid his man-to-man meltdowns. At 8-2, the Ravens enjoy a three-game lead on second-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North. Baltimore has won six in a row, and second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson is a leading most valuable player candidate.
“This feels good,” Peters said. “I was blessed to come to a team who’s got a winning tradition. They’ve been winning. They’ve got an offense who can put up points, and a defense who can stop people. I’m just trying to do my part.”
Peters has left quarterbacks in a purple haze, returning two interceptions for touchdowns in four games, a 67-yarder against the Seahawks and one for 89 yards against Cincinnati. And those were after a 32-yard pick-six against Tampa Bay in one of his last games with the Rams.
Peters has scored seven defensive touchdowns in his NFL career, the league’s most since 2015. He leads all NFL cornerbacks with six fumble recoveries since entering the league and has posted 32 total takeaways, 26 of which were interceptions.
“He’s really accommodated himself to playing the style of defense that we want to play in the back end,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “The way we play our techniques and our coverages, the way we relate to routes in both man and zone coverages, he’s really smart. He picks it up just like that. He understands the value of working hard at the fundamentals and technique and working together back there, and he’s just been seamless. That’s probably the part I appreciate the most.”
Ravens safety Earl Thomas was a star for the Seahawks when Peters was playing at the University of Washington, but the two didn’t meet until Peters was in the league.
“I didn’t really watch him. I just knew that he was cousins with Marshawn,” Thomas said, referring to former Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch. “But once he got to the league and started making all those turnovers with K.C., everybody started noticing who Marcus Peters was.”
Peters is in the final year of his Chiefs contract and is due to become a free agent after the season. That means the big plays he’s making now are all the more important, strengthening his case for his next contract. He said the fact that two teams have parted ways with him isn’t what fuels him.
“I don’t need no motivation from nobody else,” he said. “I’m motivated enough for me to take care of my family.”
And, of course, taking care of business.