Tyrann Mathieu was in on a season-high 15 plays Sunday against the 49ers, yet the safety still recorded six tackles, including one for loss. It wasn’t a bad performance, but it wasn’t a Honey Badger performance either.
“He was way too apprehensive and afraid he was going to cost us,” coach Bruce Arians said. “You could tell the look in his eye. We had a little talk right before the kickoff of the second half about letting it go and don’t be out there thinking you’re going to cost us. We wouldn’t put you out there if we think you’re going to cost us.”
This is all natural for a guy coming off major knee surgery to repair an ACL and LCL. Mathieu couldn’t argue with Arians’ assessment. On third downs (and one fourth down), Mathieu said, he was playing “a little lackadaisical” in his technique.
“Things I wouldn’t normally do,” Mathieu said. “Like I said, I’m still a few weeks away from being the guy I want to be. That confidence will come with more time, more playing time.”
A “few” weeks is nebulous. Moments later, Mathieu said he thought he could be playing like he wants as soon as the Cardinals’ next game, when they travel to Denver a week from Sunday’s bye date. In the two practices this week, it is the backups who will get the majority of the work, and right now, Mathieu remains a backup to Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson.
“Hopefully I’ll be who I want to be when we really want me to be,” Mathieu said, smiling at his own tongue-twister.
“I think it’s all mental,” Mathieu said. “My knee is fine. It’s that mental hurdle. But I am encouraged. I think I did decent (Sunday). It wasn’t my best game, but I did fine.”
Mathieu said he was happy Arians gave him the pep talk Sunday — admitting there might have been a curse word or two mixed in — and tried to take it to heart.
But, “you telling me that and me actually doing it is two different things,” Mathieu said. “Hopefully he keeps encouraging me.”
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