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.

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Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton is sacked by Chicago Bears defensive end Jonathan Bullard, bottom, and outside linebacker Sam Acho, left, during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Chicago Bears wide receiver Deonte Thompson (14) celebrates his touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears outside linebacker Sam Acho (93) celebrates a sack against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson (4) attempts a field goal as punter Matt Wile (6) holds during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Bears recovered the missed field goal and ran it back for a touchdown. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert (7) celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Chris Hubert (81) pulls in a catch as Chicago Bears cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc (22) defends during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears running back Benny Cunningham is up-ended by Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (90) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert (7) celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert (7) runs in for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Chicago Bears kicker Roberto Agayo (1) reacts to missing a field goal as Arizona Cardinals free safety Harlan Miller (34) celebrates during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals linebacker Alex Bazzie, right, and linebacker Tre'Von Johnson (51) during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals cornerback Brandon Williams (26) breaks up a pass intended for Chicago Bears wide receiver Tanner Gentry (19) during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (72) during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Chicago Bears running back Benny Cunningham (26) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Adam Shaheen (87) during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Chicago Bears running back Benny Cunningham (26) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Adam Shaheen (87) during the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) greets Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) after an preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Bears won 24-23. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) greets Chicago Bears outside linebacker Sam Acho (93) after an preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Bears won 24-23. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) tosses hit cap to fans after a preseason NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Bears won 24-23. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, left, greets Chicago Bears head coach John Fox after an preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Bears won 24-23. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Jeremy Ross (15) celebrates his touchdown during the second half of a preseason NFL football game with wide receiver Chad Williams (16), Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Bears won 24-23. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) warms up prior to a preseason NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) warms up prior to a preseason NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, left, and Chicago Bears head coach John Fox talks prior to a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears punt returner Benny Cunningham run as Arizona Cardinals punter Richie Leone (9) and cornerback Brandon Williams (26) reach for the tackle during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws 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) Chicago Bears kicker Connor Barth (4) kicks a field goal against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears kicker Connor Barth (4) and punter Pat O'Donnell (16) celebrate a field goal as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel (28) gets up during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears running back Ka'Deem Carey (25) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears kicker Connor Barth (4) kicks a field goal as punter Pat O'Donnell (16) holds against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Arizona Cardinals running back Kerwynn Williams (33) is hit by Chicago Bears tight end MyCole Pruitt (83) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) bobbles his interception as Chicago Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith (81) pursues during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals maintained possession of the football. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) 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) Chicago Bears running back Benny Cunningham (26) is knocked out of bounds by Arizona Cardinals linebacker Zaviar Gooden (52) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Jeremy Ross (15) makes a catch for a first down as Chicago Bears defensive back Marcuss Cooper (25) defends during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) is hit by Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears quarterback Mike Glennon (8) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throw under pressure 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) Arizona Cardinals free safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) celebrates his interception against the Chicago Bears during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Chicago Bears tight end Dion Sims (88) is hit by Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Scooby Wright, left, during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) Chicago Bears wide receiver Kendall Wright (13) scores a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (36) defends during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears wide receiver Kendall Wright (13) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Daniel Brown (85) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Chicago Bears wide receiver Deonte Thompson (14) runs back a missed field goal for a touchdown as Arizona Cardinals punter Matt Wile (6) defends during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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