TEMPE, Ariz. — Injuries are nothing new in sports, but that does not make them any easier to deal with.
So the fact that Arizona Cardinals rookie Tyrann Mathieu is going to be out the rest of the season, and perhaps even longer, is not something anyone wanted to see.
“It’s very hard,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “He has already gone through a lot throughout his young life already, and for an injury like this to sit him down and get him away from football, it’s definitely devastating for him.
“But as a big brother I just want to make sure that he’s mentally prepared and making sure he’s not getting into a slump, making sure his energy level is still there because I know all he loves to do is be around us and be around the football team in the locker room.”
Mathieu’s contributions on the field will surely be missed, as the third-round pick emerged as a playmaker early in his rookie season. The “Honey Badger” had combined to make 68 tackles while intercepting two passes and forcing one fumble, and earlier in the week coach Bruce Arians talked about how he had become a team leader while praising the former LSU star’s versatility, as he could play nickel corner, cornerback and safety.
While needing to replace him isn’t ideal, it’s a fact of life for the team.
“Ty’s been having a great year this year and he’s been a tremendous addition to our defense, but we’re pretty deep in the secondary, in my opinion, we’ve got a lot of guys that’s played a lot of football and a lot of veteran guys,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “I don’t expect there to be any type of drop-off because Tyrann’s out, even though we would love to have him on the field with us. But I think we’ll be fine.”
The role of replacing Mathieu will fall on multiple players. When asked what attributes he’s looking for in a nickel corner, Arians quipped, “Tyrann’s,” and the team has a variety of options when looking to fill his other roles.
But as the Cardinals plan for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans, chances are Javier Arenas, Antoine Cason, Rashad Johnson and Powers will see their roles change, while younger players like Bryan McCann and Curtis Taylor may find their way onto the field more than they usually do.
For the Cardinals, it’s all about “next man up.”
“We just know that when your opportunity comes, whoever it is, you’re going to get more snaps,” Johnson said. “It’s time to just step in and do what you’ve got to do. No added pressure — we’ve got a lot of guys in here that can play, and I’m just looking forward to see how we go out and respond to it because there’s a lot of guys that have been waiting for an opportunity to play.
“Not that we want anyone to go down, but at the same time, we’re all here and we all want to compete, we’re all competitive.”