After a year away from football fields and teammates, Tyrann Mathieu put on the practice garb of the Arizona Cardinals for the first time over the weekend.
The 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist from LSU was a third round pick of the Cardinals in last month’s NFL Draft and everyone seemed to have an opinion about the selection.
Mathieu was kicked off the LSU squad prior to the 2012 season after failing numerous drug tests and was arrested for marijuana possession last October.
Last week, at his initial press conference in Phoenix, Mathieu spoke openly about the issues that followed him into the National Football League.
“I think my actions in the last six months have proven that I’m on the right track, I’m on the right path. I think I have my head on straight. I’m just going forward, I’m going to surround myself around positive people and have a great support staff, which I know the Cardinals are going to provide for me,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it and like I said, it’s not going to be easy, there’s going to be some challenges, but it’s something I’m ready for.”
Some are still doubtful. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King is one.
In his popular Monday Morning Quarterback column on SI.com, King discusses at length the issues of former Detroit Lions second-round pick Titus Young, who was arrested for the third time in a week last Saturday.
The writer wondered how the Lions failed to research Young’s background and character thoroughly enough — especially since he was the 44th overall pick. Young, King wrote, had his own issues in college at Boise State.
He then focused on the St. Louis Rams’ decision to draft troubled cornerback Janoris Jenkins in the second round in 2012 and the Cardinals’ pick of Mathieu this season.
Now, if you want to question the Rams for taking Janoris Jenkins in the second round last year and the Cards for taking Tyrann Mathieu in the third a few weeks ago, those are valid questions. Jenkins already missed a game for violating team rules last year, and Mathieu is no lock to stay on the straight and narrow. But the Rams had multiple high picks last year and have said openly that they are willing to take chances on players because they think Jeff Fisher can handle risky guys. Time will tell if they’re right on the Jenkinses and the Alec Ogletrees, and I could be throwing stones at them in coming years. The Cardinals don’t have a track record for taking questionable character guys. They thought the talent of Mathieu was worth the risk. That’s one I think the team will end up regretting.
Jenkins, incidentally, was kicked off the Florida team in 2011 after his second marijuana-related arrest in three months and transferred to North Alabama for his senior season.
As a rookie in 2012, Jenkins started 14 games for the Rams, intercepting four passes — three of which he returned for touchdowns, tying an NFL rookie record. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown.