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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

September 7, 2012 at 9:07 AM

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Seahawks will kick themselves if they kick to Patrick Peterson

RENTON -- By the time you finish reading this sentence, the ball has to be long gone.

"From the time that it touches the fingers to it touches your toe, you've got 1.3 seconds," punter Jon Ryan said.

Now imagine eight angry man running full speed at you while one guy stands back waiting to receive a kick you hope he doesn't have a chance to return and you have a glimpse of the challenge facing Ryan on Sunday.

The Cardinals don't have a good punt returner, they have a great one. Cornerback Patrick Peterson returned four punts for touchdowns last season, an NFL record. In fact, four scores on punt returns is a career for most players. For Peterson it was his rookie season.

"He's such a natural catcher of the football that I think he can see the field while he's catching the ball," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "He can make that initial cut and avoid the coverage, but he's just got such great speed and vision when he gets into the field, he's hard to bring down. He's a strong kid. He's thick, and he's got good agility so he's definitely got a knack for it, and it has been big for us."

Special teams was the single biggest strength for the Seahawks in 2010, and it was a glaring weakness in the first half of last year. The Seahawks allowed two punts to be returned for touchdowns last year as well as a kickoff.

The fact that Peterson is one of the most dangerous returners in the league comes as no surprise to Seattle coach Pete Carroll, who first saw Peterson back in high school.

"He was about 17 when I saw him at a camp," Carroll said. "We had never (seen) a guy better at his position in all of those years because he was so strong and so explosive. And he had tremendous timing and ball skills and general athleticism."

Peterson was a first-round pick last year, chosen No. 5 overall. The challenge is keeping the ball out of his hands, something that's going to fall on Ryan.

"He's obviously a great talent," Ryan said. "He's a guy that we want to limit the amount of returns we get in this game."

That's easier said than done.

"You don't just line it up and kick it straight out of bounds," Ryan said.

Nope. You've got eight man running headlong at you and less than two seconds to boot the ball out of harm's way, which means not letting it get in Peterson's hands.

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