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Confidence: Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu looks to gain it back

Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu waits his turn to run drills during an NFL football organized team activity, Thursday, June 1, 2017, at the team training facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Admittedly, Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu is not a patient man. Yet, over the course of his four-year NFL career, he’s had to learn patience.

Dealing with one injury after another has forced Mathieu to accept the time it takes for the body to heal without complaining or getting upset.

“I guess I’m becoming a patient guy,” he said, smiling.

Mathieu didn’t have much to smile about last season.

Coming off a knee injury, his second in three years, Mathieu hurt his shoulder in Week 8 at Carolina. He missed four games in the second half of the season before ultimately landing on injured reserve in Week 16.

Mathieu played in a career-low 10 games and finished with 36 tackles, also a career-low.

“Physically I’m fine,” he said Sunday. “Obviously last year was a tough year, for all of us, so I think all of us, we have to gain that confidence back. We know we’re an extremely talented football team. I know I’m extremely talented…just working on that confidence because last year was a tough one.”

The 2016 seasons of Mathieu and the Cardinals mirrored each other. Neither could quite reach the level of performance from the year prior.

It wasn’t without trying, however.

Mathieu, though, was never himself following a 2015 ACL injury in Week 15 at Philadelphia that ended a Pro Bowl and first-team all-pro season. The Cardinals, meanwhile, never recovered from a 1-3 start and went 7-8-1, their first losing season under head coach Bruce Arians.

The start of training camp offers both Mathieu, 25, and the Cardinals a redo.

“I feel good,” he said. “Just easing back into it, working back into it. Just gaining that confidence back, which is extremely important for me. Obviously, it’s a real important camp for me. Expectations are high for myself, so really just going to take this time to work on fundamentals and like I said, gaining that confidence back.”

It’s early, but how close is Mathieu to becoming a confident player again?

“Yeah, it’ll come. Making the plays, all that will come,” he said. “Just really trying to take this time to work on my fundamentals, work on my technique and work on things that I may have lacked on last season. That’s what training camp is for, so that’s what I’m going to take this time to work on.”

One noticeable change already in camp: Mathieu is playing up near the line of scrimmage, where he’s been the most effective since the Cardinals made him a third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

That production was missing for much of last season.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “Obviously getting back blitzing, being back in the box. I’ll see how I feel once the pads come on (Monday). Obviously, it’s exciting for me. I think it plays a big part in me gaining that confidence back as well, so I’m excited about it.”

Still, it’s going to take time. And that’s where Mathieu must remain patient.

“To be honest, I don’t think I’m past (2016),” he said. “Last year, it just seemed like we didn’t play consistent enough, we didn’t make enough plays and I think all those kind of things affected confidence. It feels good to be back out here competing again, so hopefully the confidence and making the splash plays, all those things will come.”

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