Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu had to overcome a lot just to stick in the NFL.
But once he got there, stuff kept happening which kept him from doing what he does best.
But after a series of injuries that limited him, he’s finally well and ready to get back to the player he was in 2013 before a late-season knee injury, which was followed by a broken thumb last year.
“It just feels good to be free,” Mathieu said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.
“He has a gleam in his eye that I didn’t see at all last year,” coach Bruce Arians said.
That’s saying something, because Mathieu was a playmaker on a good defense as a rookie, before the injuries took a toll on him. He admitted he was tentative last year, not confident in his own health.
“You try to stay as optimistic as possible,” Mathieu said. “But there is a reality to it, too. It’s kind of hard to keep telling yourself it’s going to be all right, especially when we got into the thick of everything last year, thinking that if I was 100 percent, I’d probably be able to help my team a whole lot more than I’m doing right now.”
So instead of playing freely, he worried about making mistakes.
“You play scared because you don’t want to give up a touchdown,” Mathieu said. “Or you play too aggressive because you don’t want to be singled out as if you’re not giving the effort. It’s kind of like the worst of both worlds.
“I’ve never thought about it as hard as I did last year. I was always thinking about something, rather than just going out there to play.”
So the fact he’s out there now, running around in OTAs, is a positive sign. Because when the Honey Badger doesn’t care about making mistakes, he’s at his most dangerous.