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Tyrann Mathieu adjusting after shedding his knee brace

DB Tyrann Mathieu goes through a drill during an OTA practice May 16. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
LISTEN: Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals safety

Through four NFL seasons, some would call Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu injury prone.

Mathieu has ended three seasons on injured reserve and after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015, Mathieu wasn’t the same last season as he was recovering from a torn ACL.

He had career lows in games (10), interceptions (1) and tackles (33).

In essence, he wasn’t the “Honey Badger.”

One reason that might have been is while he was trying to recover and come back, he wore a knee brace.

“I think a lot of my game is just making wild plays and exciting plays,” Mathieu told Doug and Wolf Wednesday on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “I feel like when you have a knee brace on, not only does it restrict you physically, but mentally you kinda know that you know you aren’t where you want to be.”

Through this year’s OTAs and mini-camp Mathieu has ditched the brace, not having wore it since his season was ended in Week 15 due to a shoulder injury.

The former third-round pick has had to get re-acclimated to running around the field while not being held back by a brace.

“I’m doing great, the body is feeling great,” Mathieu said. “Obviously not having a knee brace on you know just getting back, adjusted back to that, but I feel good, I feel like my movement skills are back, so come September it’s going to be exciting.”

Taking off the brace signifies Mathieu getting to play free with no restrictions, but what it doesn’t do is ensure him the production that he strives for on the field.

“I think you just try your best to work through it (taking off the brace),” Mathieu said. “Like I said, I’ve had to deal with that on two different occasions and you know both times I don’t think I was really, I consider myself strong-minded kinda tough guy, but that was one of those things where it definitely got to me.”

Mathieu’s health impacts the ceiling that the Cardinals defense can achieve.

During his best season in which he had 17 passes defended, 5 interceptions and 80 tackles, the team reached the NFC Championship, and during his worst, they failed to make the playoffs.

The Cardinals need a Mathieu that makes those exciting “Honey Badger” plays every game, a guy who plays free without the fear of injury.

Asked about if he can play like himself while playing to not get injured, his response was quick.

“No,” Mathieu said. I can’t worry about those things.  “I kinda look at football . . . it’s kinda like life, you gotta deal with adversity, I think a lot of people look at me and they want me to be perfect and maybe they see guys like Larry (Fitzgerald) and Pat (Patrick Peterson), guys that don’t get injured and they kinda want that for you, but I see myself as being different.”

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