“He is ready to turn the page.”
Those words, said by Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim on the Big Red Rage on Arizona Sports 620 Thursday, were in reference to rookie Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu, of course, is one of the most high-profile rookies in the NFL, and easily the most talked about first-year player on the Cardinals.
A defensive back out of LSU, his story is well documented, including being a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011 before being dismissed from the Tigers by head coach Les Miles due to issues with substance abuse.
The Cardinals took a flyer on Mathieu in the third round of April’s draft, and up to this point they’ve been handsomely rewarded.
Mathieu, who is set to start for the Cardinals at free safety Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys, has done everything the team has asked of him.
And, as Keim said, he wants to do more.
“We talked about Tyrann, how he handled the big stage,” Keim said of a conversation he was having with head coach Bruce Arians following the team’s preseason opener last Friday in Green Bay. “We’re sitting there, and he’s telling me the fact that he played in the late first quarter, the second quarter, the third quarter…’T, time to get out of the game.’
“He didn’t want to come out of the game.”
Mathieu tallied four tackles, one sack and one pass defensed in his first taste of NFL action, but his reasoning for wanting to stay in the game had little to do with how well he was playing.
After being out of football the last year, the last thing Mathieu wanted to do was leave the field.
“From a football standpoint, that says a lot about the guy,” Keim said. “Talks about his passion, it talks about his love for the game. And you know what? He realizes he made a lot of mistakes.”
The first-year general manager added that as a football player, Mathieu earned a very high draft grade from the team. But at the same time, he slipped to the third round (69th overall) for a reason, and those red flags were — and are — still present.
“Off the field, we understand what we’re up against,” Keim said, adding that while Mathieu is receiving some much-deserved positive attention, they’re all approaching his life and career “one day at a time.”
“Every day we’re trying to get better and we’re hoping to get to the next day, and that day we’re going to get better,” he said. “As long a we can do that and we find ourself into December and January, I think we have a chance with this young man because he has all the qualities you look for.
“We just need to make sure that we have the right support system in place.”