Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu may return to NFL regular season action earlier than expected. Mathieu suffered ACL and LCL tears in his knee in December 2013, and has been “tenacious” in his recovery process.
Several weeks ago, head coach Bruce Arians expected Mathieu to start the 2014 season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, but general manager Steve Keim is optimistic of an earlier return:
“He has been a gym rat. He’s in here all the time. We have to kick him out of the building and tell him ‘Tyrann, go home for a little bit.’ He’s always in the training room doing his rehab.”
Arizona starts their regular season as part of the ESPN Monday Night Football double-header when they play the San Diego Chargers. Mathieu‘s work ethic to push toward training camp in July has greatly impressed Keim:
“I told him, ‘Ty, don’t listen to anybody because nobody can tell you and pinpoint the exact return date. That’s up to you. And he’s a machine. He’s the kind of guy that I really think can come back a lot earlier than people anticipated.”
Mathieu can use both Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin III as possible scenarios. Adrian Peterson‘s work ethic toward recovery allowed him to excel in the 2012 season, which he earned MVP honors for. On the contrary, Robert Griffin III did not participate in preseason and training camp for the 2013 season and his regression was shown throughout the season.
Mathieu is focusing on training camp in July, which is not a bad objective because Week 1 of the regular season is not enough in modern-day football, and he has the full support of both GM Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians. In a division with the two NFC Championship Game teams: San Francisco and defending Super Bowl Champion Seahawks, Mathieu‘s services will be needed for Arizona to make that next step.
The Cardinals do not fear those two teams, as Arizona was the last team to defeat Seattle at CenturyLink, and they lost the last game of the season to San Francisco on a last-second field goal. The 2013 Cardinals joined the 2012 Chicago Bears as 10-6 teams to not make the postseason; if any team is hungrier to make the postseason after not making it the season prior, Arizona is that team.