ARIZONA CARDINALS

Now it can be said: Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu is back

Aug 20, 2017, 11:16 AM
Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) intercepts a pass against the Chicago Bears durin...

Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) intercepts a pass against the Chicago Bears during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – When praising safety Tyrann Mathieu during training camp, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians always added a disclaimer: Do it on gameday.

Hardly a practice has finished without seeing Mathieu either break up a pass, deflect a pass or intercept a pass; and sometimes all three.

“He’s got his hands on a lot of balls,” Arians said recently, before adding, “Until it’s real bullets, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Wait no more.

In the second quarter of Saturday’s loss to the Chicago Bears, Mathieu recorded his first interception of the preseason. He stepped in front of a Mike Glennon pass intended for Kendall Wright, jumping the route for a red-zone turnover.

“I just saw the receiver stem me. He stemmed me outside, so I knew he was running an out route,” Mathieu said after the 24-23 setback. “I actually thought I was about to get a skinny post, but he ended up breaking it off. We were in an outside leverage coverage, anyway, so I was just able to slip him and get in front of him.”

And once Mathieu had the ball secured in his hands that’s when he really went to work.

Running up the right sidelines, Mathieu high-stepped his way past several would-be tacklers, further exciting the 64,016 in attendance at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Crossing midfield, Mathieu momentarily lost control of the ball only to regain his hold on it and then finally went to the ground at the Bears 43-yard line. It was a 52-yard return.

“He’s a beast. He’s back,” linebacker Markus Golden said of Mathieu. “He’s been doing it in practice since camp started, so we already knew what he could do. He’s just back to being himself.”

The interception helped set up the Cardinals’ first touchdown, a Carson Palmer one-yard throw to tight end Jermaine Gresham on 4th-and-goal to give the Cardinals a 7-3 lead.

Mathieu had swung momentum in the Cardinals favor.

“That is at least a 10-point swing, maybe a 14-point swing, so obviously it was huge,” Palmer said.

In addition to the interception, Mathieu finished the game with two tackles, including one for loss — he and linebacker Chandler Jones combined to drop receiver Kevin White behind the line of scrimmage for a three-yard loss in the first quarter — while playing 24 defensive snaps.

Since his arrival to the Cardinals as a third-round draft pick in 2013, Mathieu has always had great instincts for the football. What he hasn’t always had is great health. Three of his four NFL seasons have ended early due to injury, including last season when a shoulder issue limited him to 10 games, a career-low for Mathieu.

“That’s why I think it’s so important for me to be healthy and stay healthy because that’s the kind of play I can make for my team,” he said, referring to the pick. “But, like I said, it was a great call by ‘Bettch’ (defensive coordinator James Bettcher) just putting me in the position to make the play, and obviously, anytime a play like that comes my way, I’ve got to make it.”

A healthy, playmaking Mathieu bodes well for the Cardinals in 2017.

Still, Arians, while pleased with the interception, couldn’t resist a subtle dig on his all-pro safety following the game.

“I got on him about a quarterback catching him, but he’s got to get in shape,” Arians said.

Follow Craig Grialou on Twitter

Arizona Cardinals

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball during the game against the Los Ange...
Tyler Drake

NFC West offseason outlook: The San Francisco 49ers

The offseason has twisted and turned not only for the Cardinals but for the rest of the NFC West. A look at the current state of the 49ers:
14 hours ago
Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters (98) walks out before an NFL game between the Arizo...
Nikash Nath

PFF’s Doug Kyed advises Arizona Cardinals to bring back DL Corey Peters

With the Cardinals' current roster construction, PFF's Doug Kyed believes Arizona should bring DL Corey Peters back once more in 2022.
3 days ago
Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. (77) protects his quarterback during the fi...
Sam Graveline

Cardinals take OT Paris Johnson Jr. in ESPN 2023 NFL mock draft

ESPN's Matt Miller thinks the Cardinals will beef up the offensive line in his first 2023 mock by selecting Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr.
5 days ago
Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, right, and Byron Murphy Jr. (7) celebrate after an NFL foo...
Wills Rice

NFL.com’s Patra ranks Cardinals’ cornerbacks among weakest rooms in league

The Cardinals enter training camp with a few question marks personnel-wise on the defensive side of the ball, especially at cornerback.
6 days ago
Nick Scott #33 of the Los Angeles Rams tackles Zach Ertz #86 of the Arizona Cardinals after a recep...
Sam Graveline

PFF: Tight end shaping up to be biggest position battle for Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals head into training camp expecting to have healthy competition at a handful of positions, including at tight end.
7 days ago
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with fans after beating the Houston Texans 31-5...
Arizona Sports

Cardinals Corner: The timeframe of Kyler Murray’s contract extension

We haven't heard much lately when it comes down to Cardinals QB Kyler Murray and a contract extension. When will a new deal get done?
7 days ago
Now it can be said: Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu is back